Cheer team to compete at national competition

Sophia Krugler, Managing Editor

The Palo Alto High School varsity cheer team performs at a football game in September 2019. The team will participate in the United Spirit Association national competition Feb. 14 to Feb. 16 after qualifying in October. “My expectations for my team in nationals is that we bring everything to the mat and have no regrets,” senior captain Tati Taylor stated in a message. “All of our hard work is paying off.” Photo: Amy Yu

The Palo Alto High School varsity cheer team will participate in the United Spirit Association national competition from Feb. 14 to Feb 16 in Anaheim.

According to Coach Lea Santini, the team will compete in the Small Varsity Show Cheer Non-Tumbling Novice Division. The Vikings have not been to Nationals since 2016, when they took third place. This year, the team qualified with a first-place finish at the USA Spirit Regional competition on Oct. 12 in Santa Cruz. 

Santini, who took over as head coach in the fall 2017,  said she decided to take the team to regional qualifiers following the team’s win at the first-ever Central Coast Section Cheer Competition last February in San Jose.

“We did not go to nationals in the past few years, as we needed to rebuild our program,” Santini said. “Last year, we competed strictly [in] CCS. After seeing how dedicated the athletes were willing to be, I took them to the regional level as I believed they were ready.”

The team has been practicing more than 10 hours per week, including weekend practices and cheering at the boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball games, according to Santini. Junior captain Libby Spier said that despite major setbacks, including an injury and two team members quitting the team, the team has improved since its win at CCS last year. 

“Last year we won CCS in our division with a routine that we would now consider easy,” Spier stated over text message. “This year’s [routine] is much harder, more complicated, and way more interesting.”

When the Vikings return to the national competition this weekend, Santini says she hopes they can truly soak in the experience of competing at a national level.

“My hopes and dreams would be that our team goes out on that mat and shines, giving it everything that they’ve got,” Santini said. “ I just want to see them be the best they can be and [feel] great about their performance.”