After competing at the district final last Monday, the Jefferson varsity cheerleading team has qualified for the regional tournament, which will take place at John Champe High School on Oct. 27. This is the first time the team has qualified in five years.
When asked what made this year’s squad different from previous years, most responses were similar: the overwhelming number of seniors with previous years of experience on the team.
“The experience [the seniors had] helped us be more competitive than other squads, because many squads have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, where we have a team of twelve seniors [out of fifteen total on the mat],” senior co-captain Ethan Nguonly said.
With the majority of the team being seniors who had three to four years of experience under their belt, the team did not need to spend as much time learning lower level techniques. This newfound time was instead focused towards learning more advanced stunts and sharpening routines.
“I think that [the number of seniors on the team] helped us kickstart the season faster and we didn’t have to reteach everything,” senior co-captain Debbie Dong said.
Due to the early start of the season for the team, more advanced techniques were introduced earlier on as well.
“The main difference that we had this year was that we started stunting a lot earlier this season,” Nguonly said. “We started stunting the first few days of practice and I think that’s what made a big difference in how our team overall improved a lot in stunting this season.”
Another possible factor that may have helped this year was that the Virginia High School League (VHSL) slightly modified their cheer rubric to include intangible factors, such as creativity. This modification may have worked in the favor of the Jefferson team who have always performed creative routines. Additionally, a team bonding experience over the summer may have improved the squad’s teamwork.
“I want to say that the team attending UCA cheer camp at Great Wolf Lodge this year really helped us out! We learned so many new skills and had fun at the same time, with a bunch of team bonding,” head coach Mary Brunson said.
When asked about the regionals qualification meant to the senior captains, both felt love and pride for their team in equal measure.
“I’m really proud of the team and how far we’ve all come, because I know that it’s been a big goal for everyone for a while,” Nguonly said.
“Watching the team get so close every year and then finally making it is really special,” Dong said.