Cheer team advances to state championship

Payton Anderson and Kristine Lin

During the halftime show of the final game of the 2022 football season, Palo Alto High School’s varsity cheer team performs yet another electric routine. After having emerged victorious at the Central Coast Sectional finals, the cheer team now advances to the California Cheerleading State Championship. Senior co-captain Eunchae Hong said the team’s CCS victory would not have happened without extremely hard work. “After doing it [the routine] a lot of times and feeling confident about it, there’s no way you can mess up and that’s how you want to go when you go perform,” Hong said. “It’s like the same thing as a test. You want to study a lot to make sure you know the content so that when you actually take the test, you know what you’re doing.” (Daniel Garepis-Holland)

Following the Palo Alto High School varsity cheer team’s win at the Central Coast Section’s final on Jan 14 in San Jose, the team will compete for the state championship starting on Jan 28 to the 30th in Sacramento, California.

According to senior co-captain Eunchae Hong, the team’s supportive attitude during practices and competitions led to the team’s victory at the CCS finals. 

“I’ve been on the team for four years and this is the closest I’ve ever felt to my team,” Hong said. “We [the cheer captains] have focused a lot on making sure everyone feels welcomed. We’re like one big family and I just love that because we all really trust each other.”

Hong said the team has performed their routine at several competitions, but that has not stopped the team from adding and improving their performance with new tricks and flips.

“Every time we go out [to compete], we try to make it [our routine] a little bit more difficult each time to show our progression,” Hong said. “We changed the ending, and we made it harder.”

Although the team has won competitions such as the CCS finals, many team members are experiencing state championships for the first time since it is just being introduced this year. Sophomore Lily Jeffrey said she was excited about performing at CCS, especially after the team had overcome several challenges leading up to the finals.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect [in CCS] because, in the last few competitions, we’ve had some people get sick and hurt, right before the competition,” Jeffrey said. “But I think with our routine, I felt pretty confident that we would be able to execute it well.”

The cheer team also had to switch to practicing before school instead of after school due to scheduling conflicts with the dance team. This has been a tough change in routine for some of the girls, sophomore Ella Kogelnik said. Additionally, another challenge the team has faced is keeping motivation up during practice.

“We’re a competitive team, so it [practicing] is just kind of like drilling and doing a bunch of reps of the exact same thing,” Hong said. “It can get really tiring and sometimes even boring. We’ve spent so many hours just kind of perfecting and nitpicking every little part of the routine in order to do well at CCS.”

All the time and effort poured into practices were big contributing factors to the team’s winning performance at the CCS finals, according to Hong.

“It was just such a rewarding opportunity to go out and perform this routine that you’ve been working on for months, and really see it all come together for that two minutes and 30 seconds,” Hong said. 

Despite some of the challenges the team experienced this season, sophomore Abigail Karel said the team’s hard work has continued to pay off—as seen with the Vikings’ most recent win. According to Karel, she and her teammates are ready to pull off another win at states. 

“I’m really proud of my teammates for all the hard work they’re putting into the routine,” Karel said. “My goal for my team [at states] is just to put it all out there and really try their best because they’ve put so much work into it—doing practice five times a week, and really working so hard.”