Oakdale as a community has had many accomplishments in sports over the years. Just this past winter the Oakdale High School football team claimed the CIF State Championship. However, it was the girls, and one boy, that cheered the football team on from the sidelines who took a step into the limelight this past weekend.
Oakdale’s Mustang Cheer team stormed the stage at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the 2017 Jamz Nationals. Sixteen OHS students packed their bags and competed in the prestigious event and took first place, coming home with a national championship.
“It was short notice, just something we talked about in January and the kids wanted to do it,” said OHS Cheer coach Sherry Kupper following the event.
In October the team competed in the Regionals in Sacramento with 22 OHS cheerleaders competing.
“There are 24 total cheerleaders on our team. However, only 16 could compete in the nationals,” Kupper explained.
The 16 competitors consisted of nine seniors, five juniors and two sophomores. Making the trip to Las Vegas were Avery Novotny, Brooke Chau, Celeste Samudio, Christine Mora, Deonna Osmundson, Emily Stepp, Emma Burke, Haley Walker, Jenna London, Kyndall Vargas, Lisa Barrientos, Maddie Abell, McKenna Hager, Sofia Martin, TJ Verdegaal and Wyatt Stepp. This talented group of cheerleaders accomplished the championship feat by besting over 150 different schools from across the nation, over 115 were in their section.
“For them to balance school, academics, regular cheer activities like rallies and keeping their grades up and to perform the way they did was phenomenal. I could not be prouder of the way they held their own. They have never done anything like this before and to be national champions is amazing and it was a team effort,” Kupper praised of the young athletes.
As the coach mentioned, the kids need to maintain their grade point average to compete, like other athletes. These athletes cheered year round starting with the long football season, then through basketball, while also fitting in extra practices to prepare for the Vegas competition.
Oakdale’s coaching and choreography team consists of Kupper, Nikki Shatswell, Heather Vieira, Brittani Irwin and Katey Choate.
“This team was focused, determined, dedicated, but most of all, I believe what put them over the top was their respect and, yes, love, for their team, for us, for their school, parents, this town,” Kupper said of the motivation. “They wanted to make Oakdale proud.”
The cheer squad did not have time to be nervous as they hit the stage at 7:43 a.m. to perform. Each team had two minutes or less to complete their routine, where teams were judged on several different aspects. Oakdale scored 90.37 total points, the only school to reach 90-plus points.
“When the team hit the stage, I was more nervous than anyone, I think. I just kept thinking how hard these kids worked and I hoped nothing would go wrong. Once the music started I could tell we were going to be okay,” Kupper said with a laugh.
Like all other sports this achievement just doesn’t “happen”. It takes a village to produce a champion and the cheer team realizes they had help along the way.
“We do wish to thank our school administration and district for making this opportunity and experience available to us. Katey Choate who originally was hired on to be our high school cheer choreographer/consultant and literally poured her heart and soul into this competition team; as well as our coaches who absolutely love our program, all our team members and this comp team,” Kupper said. “A big thank you to the Oakdale Cheer Boosters who jumped on board as soon as they found out and tirelessly fund-raised and continuously make our cheerleaders’ cheer experience the best for them. Thank you to Infinite Athletics for opening their state of the art cheer gym to us, and all the parents, family members and friends who supported our team here at home and also made the trip all the way to Las Vegas.”