When Oak Hills High School opened its doors, the varsity cheerleading squad, unusually, had a lot of freshmen. Coach Dale Ford simply didn't have a lot of other options.


Three years later, the squad that has grown up together has grown into a championship team in their own right, winning their second statewide championship in a row.


"We worked on our routine for 3 1/2 months," Ford said. "We worked four hours a day, pretty much four days a week."


And that's in addition to developing the routine themselves, as opposed to going with an adult choreographer, as most of their competition does.


"We can probably think of more unique things," team captain John Garcia said.


"Judges, by the end of the day, are getting bored, so we try and give them a fresh (routine)," Ford said.


"It gives us a good feeling, knowing we won with our own routine," team captain Elena Dinkins chimed in.


And win they did: At the High School Cheerleading and the California State Cheerleading Championships at Knott's Berry Farm on Feb. 25, the Oak Hills varsity co-ed cheerleading squad took first place in their division, first place in overall varsity. The junior varsity cheer squad also took first in their division, and the combined points led to Oak Hills capturing the overall state championship.


"It just tops the year, leaving knowing that we won state," said Dinkins, just one of five seniors on the 24-member squad. The majority of the varsity squad are juniors, and more than half of them had started on the squad as freshmen, during Oak Hills' first year open.


The cheerleaders will suit up one more time this year, at a pep rally for the school's spring sports teams later this month.


"It's nice to see hard work pay off," Ford said. "We spend the whole year supporting other athletics ... so it's nice for us to be able to compete."