At the end of the 2012 school year the Kuna High School cheerleading program was on a streak. Since 2007 the squad had made it to the state competition every year and in 2012 they won the 4A State Division in Show Cheer and came in second at the state competition overall. With such great success in 2011-2012, the coaches didn’t anticipate a very good 2012-2013, especially since they were only four students that were returning out of the 24 on the team the previous year. They were so wrong.
Assistant Coach Jake Salutregui thought that the 2012-2013 school year was going to be a rebuilding year. After all, most of the previous year’s squad seniors had graduated, had been in the program for three to four years and were at the top of their athletic ability. He thought he and the other coaches were going to have to train non-seasoned athletes on a multi-year plan to get everyone back in to shape. Unlike other seasonal sports such as football, basketball and track, cheerleading is an all year sport requiring special dedication from students.
Cheerleading squads not only cheer at most school sporting events, but they also have their own unique competitions. Kuna created two squads this past year for competitions. One, an all-girl varsity squad with lots of JV members bumped up to the varsity level for competitions. The second, a co-ed varsity squad. According to Coach Salutregui, this is the first time anyone in the state had competed with two varsity squads.
The cheerleading competition season begins in January and goes through March. Kuna High School competed in two competitions before the District 3 State Qualifier. In both competitions the two squads placed first in every category they were entered in.
While most people know cheerleaders as those smiling girls on the sidelines with pom-poms, doing flips and rooting for the team, there is a lot of athletic work and training that goes into preparing for the high flying stunts and dance routines.
For those unfamiliar with competitive cheerleading, there are four categories. Pom is a minute long routine that consists of dancing and pom-poms, the fuzzy balls of fabric, plastic and paper that is the stereotypical hand accessory for cheerleading. The Sideline category is about cheering, no music. Just cheering. The Stunt category includes no more than five members that throw a combination of different stunts including basket tosses, one-legged stunts, inverted stunts and different kinds of dismounts. The Show Cheer category is what Coach Salutregui says is the hardest. It is a two and a half minute routine consisting of pyramids, cheering, tumbling, jumps, stunts and dancing.
Moving forward to the District 3 State Qualifier Cheerleading Competition, the Cheerleading Board of Control, the rulemaking committee, decided to allow only one squad to be entered per school. Kuna chose to enter the Co-Ed Varsity Squad. With 22 schools competing from 2A to 5A schools, Kuna competed in the 4A division with Nampa, Middleton, Bishop Kelly and Columbia High Schools.
“We came in this year with 5 routines to Districts,” said Salutregui. “A Pom routine, Sideline Routine, Show Cheer Routine, and two Stunt Group Routines. One stunt group was an all male squad and the other Co-Ed.”
Kuna decided to break tradition and enter an all male stunt team in previous years as well as this year. In Idaho, Kuna is the first and only school ever to enter, qualify and win the stunt group category with an all-male group. They placed second in 2012.
Kuna took first place in every single category they entered at Districts this year and was the highest scoring team among all 22 teams. They qualified for every category and had an almost perfect score in the Show Cheer category.
The All Male Stunt Group includes Zach Villenueva, Skylar Hamilton, Tyler Hervey, and flyer Landon Pedersen. The Co-Ed stunt group was made up of All Girl Squad Members Cheyenne Stanley, Amber Crabtree, newcomer Hunter Deere and flyer Bailey King. Bailey began the year having no tumbling and flying experience to competing as a main Co-Ed Varisty Flyer this year at districts.
“I want to stress that the team that has been dominating this year is made up of only four returning state champions,” said Salutregui. “The rest are brand new. They have worked harder to achieve greatness than any other squad that has been at Kuna. These kids are some of the best kids we coaches have ever worked with. We as coaches were very, very impressed with the fact that a team as young and as non-seasoned as they are placed so high at districts… the hardest competition of the year.”
“The year has been wild,” Head Coach Erica Shull said. “It has been very up and down with a lot of coming and goings with kids. Re-Building a cheerleading squad is hard work, it takes time and effort and a lot of conditioning. This team did amazing at districts. They swept the floor! But they haven’t ever been to a state competition besides three of them, so they don’t realize what caliber of competition they will be walking into.”
The squads are now practicing harder than ever preparing to compete for the Grand Champion Title in the 4A Division. 2012-2013 State Competition for Cheerleading and Dance will be March 16th at Northwest Nazerene University.
2012-2013 Co-Ed Varsity Cheerleaders are Baili Bender, Kim Dessert, Claudia Cisneros, Bailey King, Zach Villenuva, Cassie Hettinga, Monica Rodrigez, Coltyn Fisher, Tyler Hervey, Landon Pedersen, Taylor Grubbs, Katie Gorton, Skylar Hamilton, Hunter Deere, Taylor Tyree, Andrew White, Jordyn Watters, Sammi Drollinger, Brittany Escott and Kersten Griggs.
2012-2013 All Girl Varisity are: Taniesha Jacobson, Jordynn Watters, Taylor Tyree, Bailey King, Brittany Escott, Amber Crabtree, Cheyenne Stanley, Morgen Oppe, Nikki Wierschem, Jada Wierschem, Diana Pozos, Marissa Ventura, Tori McDowell, Cheyenne Clark and Ilse Lara.