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OHS Competitive Cheer Brings Home State Rings
O Cheer win
Members of the Oakdale High School Competition Cheer Squad were all smiles after winning state championship rings for their division during the Jamz event held in Bakersfield on Saturday, Feb. 11. Photo Contributed

For the Oakdale High School Cheer Competition team, hard practices, disappointments, and uncertain moments threatened to dash hopes for a state win but the athletes arrived at the Saturday, Feb. 11 Bakersfield event determined — and left wearing rings.

Coached by Samantha Silva and Katie Keller, the OHS team traveled to Bakersfield over the weekend for the state Jamz competition knowing their team had the talent to win but with seven teams in their category, it would be a fight for the title.

Silva, who’s been coaching for seven years in Oakdale through multiple programs and age groups shared, “We definitely had a lot of ups and downs over the past few months. Sometimes stunts don’t work or certain groups just can’t seem to catch on as quick but they were all so willing to be coached and really take what we had to say and run with it. We had some rough practices, lots of tears and a couple injuries. At the end of the day, we had just as many great practices, happy tears and laughter.”

The competition team, comprised of all three cheer levels, required a different level of dedication as practices were long, hard, and unrelenting. The team had to share gym space with the basketball team, which meant practices often went as late as 9 p.m. on school nights with athletes juggling school, work schedules, and family commitments.

Keller, who also has an extensive cheer background, agreed, saying, “Getting time in the gym wasn’t easy but we made it work with whatever way we could. Our practice schedule wasn’t ideal but they showed up with a smile, ready to work every time.”

Not only did the work pay off, the team ended up winning Level Champion, state rings, and narrowly missed taking Grand National Champion, which would’ve sent the team to Las Vegas for the national stage, missing out by a .5 point differential.

“Honestly, just winning state was our goal,” Silva said. “Grands would have been a great honor but it wasn’t disappointing by any means to not win it. They did end up winning Level Champions, which means they got the highest score of all Level 1 teams that performed that day. We are happy to take those two banners home with us.”

For the seniors on the team, some of whom had spent the last four years representing Oakdale, this was their last hurrah as an OHS cheerleader.

One senior, Hannah Morgan, said, “Ending my senior cheer career with a state win is the best thing ever … it’s been a rough senior cheer season, but to win state and bring home a ring definitely is the highlight of my senior year.” She added, “My most memorable moment would have to be when we were going backstage to get our rings and all of the seniors were crying together because we had just won.”

For senior Eryleigh Sheetz, who’s been cheering since she was six years old, the win was a perfect ending to an amazing cheer career. “When I found out we won, I was on top of the world … we had fun together but we also pushed each other. I’m glad that I won state with this team. We deserved it.”

Senior Hailey Stice said, “I have a video of the announcement, and I love how we reacted. The jumping, the screaming, it was just a very cool moment for me.”

This year, German exchange students Holli Schmidt and Tamara Löchner, got a fun crash course in American sports as they donned the uniform and learned the ropes of high school sideline cheer and then, competition cheer, which are two distinctly different disciplines.

For both girls, the experience was nothing short of spectacular.

Tamara gushed, “One word — incredible. It is the best ending I have ever dreamed of. I never thought that I would be able to take a ring back to Germany with me. I’m very thankful it is a perfect ending. The Oakdale cheer team is an incredibly talented team with amazing cheerleaders and coaches.”

Keller said of the two exchange students, “Holli and Tamara were such a joy to have on this team. Their attitudes were simply amazing, and they were great, coachable kids. Them going home as American State Champions makes me so proud that they can think of their cheer experience as something positive to take home with them.”

Months of hard work always boils down to two minutes and 30 seconds — and there’s no do-overs. What you put out on the mat, is what you’re left with at the end of your routine, which heightens the excitement and the nerves.

“I love watching the new girls come in and learn new skills they had never even thought about before and seeing the girls who have been doing this for years continue to grow. We can only coach them so much but when they step foot on that stage everything is in their hands and you just have to hope you gave them everything they need to succeed,” Silva said.

As the excitement winds down, the coaches are already looking forward to the next season as cheer try-outs are around the corner in March.

“We look forward to another great season of football and basketball cheering next school year and maybe even a comp team again if the time is right,” Silva said. “We have so many new faces that come to try out every year and it will be exciting to see what they have to offer and what skills they’ll bring to the table.”

Still, there’s always something special about each team.

Keller said, “This team will always hold a special place in my heart … This team genuinely loved each other and you could tell when they took the mat. The chemistry between this group of girls was so positive.”

A few of the seniors shared the following bits of advice for future athletes eyeing a coveted spot on the OHS cheer squad.

Morgan said, “Give it your all and you will succeed no matter what.”

Isabella Padilla said, “My advice for future competitors is to just have fun with your team and be there for one another but also work hard for what you want.”

Stice offered, “My advice is to have fun with it and work hard. Practice may suck with the three full-outs in a row and the conditioning, but it can be so much fun too! It’s more laid back, so you can have fun and mess around with your teammates. After your last performance, you’ll want to do it again!”