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HIGH LIFE : A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : Four High School Cheerleading Squads Rooting for a National Championship

February 17, 1989|LYNDA KIM | Lynda Kim is a senior at Cypress High School, where she is the editor of the school newspaper, Centurion Scroll, the historian for student government, president of the physics and calculus clubs, vice president of the International Club and a member of the California Scholastic Federation.

Give me a W! Give me an I! Give me an N! Give me another N! Give me an E! Give me an R! Give me an S! What do they spell?

What they spell is the status of the varsity cheerleading squads from Cypress, Los Alamitos, Marina and Mater Dei high schools. They're all winners.

These squads will represent California at the 10th annual National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 25 and 26.

This competition, considered the nation's largest and most prestigious, is administered by the Universal Cheerleading Assn. and sponsored by the Personal Products Division of Johnson & Johnson.

The four Orange County schools became eligible to compete in Orlando by placing among the top five at the Southern California regionals competition Dec. 11 at Cypress College.

In Orlando, there will be one preliminary round, and from it, the top 20 of more than 120 teams, will advance to the finals. The finals, to be held at Sea World, will be taped by ESPN and televised at a later date.

The judging criteria will follow a 100-point system. Each performance will be scored in four areas: the fundamentals, which include motions, jumps and gymnastics; group techniques, such as synchronization, rhythm, foundation and spacing; overall effect, including the routine's difficulty, crowd appeal, visual effect and choreography; and practicality.

Each team, composed of a maximum 16 people, is allowed 2 1/2 minutes to perform a routine that must include a cheer. Music is optional.

"When you say 'cheerleading,' people think it's a bunch of girls jumping up and down at the sideline," said Judy Trujillo, Los Alamitos' adviser. "But it's much more than that. It's become a sport that incorporates gymnastics and dance."

Girls are not the only ones involved in the splits, jumps and pyramids. Behind every successful cheerleader--and often below, lifting her up--is a stunt man, otherwise known as a guy cheerleader. In fact, of the four county schools competing in Orlando, only Cypress is in the all-girl division. The other three will compete in the co-ed category.

The Cypress Centurions finished first at the regionals, beating out 15 other teams. This all-girl squad has been coached for the last 5 years by Cris Stuart, who does all the choreography for the team. He described his team as "outgoing and always willing to try."

The cheerleading adviser at Cypress is Rick Schlichting, who is also the school's activities director.

Senior Leisha Berry, 17, the team's co-captain, credits the squad's success to a number of things. "We have a good coach and very good teamwork," she said. "Also, we take gymnastics lessons on our own time, so all of us tumble. We can all do back handsprings. Not many schools have that advantage."

Added Stuart: "We just have amazing pyramids, and our stunts are creative and continuous. I think that we'll do really really well (at Orlando)."

In addition to daily after-school practices, the squad has held various fund-raisers to earn part of the estimated $500 per person needed to travel and to compete in Florida.

Some of the fund-raising activities included doing a cheer for a disc jockey at KIIS-FM. The team also received a donation for cheering alongside the Laker Girls at the grand opening of a mini-market.

Members of the Cypress competition squad, including co-captains Shelley Poyner and Berry, are twins Gina and Tina Fulford, Laura Heaney, Jenny Hedrick, Alison Liming, Rachel Nowack, Shelley Steinert, Misti Strath, Carie Tingstad, Stacy Tolkin, Lori Uyeno and Vera Woodington.

In the co-ed division, Los Alamitos and Mater Dei tied for first place at the regionals, and Marina finished fourth.

Trujillo has been Los Alamitos' pep adviser for 7 years, and Rey Lozano is the team's coach and choreographer. The Griffins, who have participated in the national championships for the past 8 years, were crowned national champions in 1985.

"It's like the Olympics," Trujillo said. "It's a sport, and you only get one chance. For 2 1/2 minutes, you have to be perfect. One little tiny drop could end it for the whole team.

"We have very good choreography (and) the strongest squad ever in terms of talent. We just want to do our best.

"It's funny how we (the team) are known all over the country for cheerleading. In this contest, Los Alamitos and Mater Dei have been the two major powerhouses."

Said team captain Sarah Ann Libby, a 17-year-old senior: "We are a very experienced squad who really want to win. If we hit our routine perfectly, I think we have a chance of doing just that."

The team is composed of seven stunt men and nine cheerleaders. They are: David Ahlstrom, Darin Anthony, Yvette Cisneros, Sharisa Cox, Tracey Delaney, Lance Jorgensen, Libby, Colleen May, Nida Nafarrete, Kirk Saylin, Denelle Slynn, Samara Smith, Tracy Tounzen, Scott Udoff, John Vreeland and Bill Walters.

This year's competition marks Mater Dei's eighth visit to the finals. Furthermore, the Monarchs are the defending national champions for the second year in a row.

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