Oak Hills High School varsity and junior varsity cheerleading squads won the 2013 State Championship title at the Sharp International State Championship competition on Feb. 23 at Knott's Berry Farm. Together the squads also achieved the title of Grand State Champions.
This isn't the first time OHHS squads have won the state championship title: varsity has won the title three years in a row and now JV has won it twice, according to coach Julie Thayn.
"I'm very proud of my kids," head coach Dale Ford said last week. "They don't always get to see their hard work pay off, it's exciting for me that they were able to see it."
But the road to victory wasn't all cheers as the teams faced some unexpected challenges along the way, according to Ford. He suffered two strokes and took two weeks off to recover. Several cheerleaders were sick with the flu, and some of the cheerleaders were grieving over the loss of their friends who were killed in a car accident.
"With all those challenges it's really something to get it together and win," Ford said.
There are some advantages that help the varsity squad with the win, they prepare their own routines, compete only once a year, have varsity cheerleaders that started as freshmen, and are a co-ed squad said Ford.
They prepare for four months for their one chance on stage with only three minutes to perform, not leaving much room for mistakes, he said.
"It takes strength, stamina, endurance to keep going, and pride in what you do because it's a sport not everybody likes to join," varsity stunt captain John Garcia said.
Ford said his goal isn't simply to teach his squad how to be disciplined cheerleaders.
"I teach them to be first class in everything they do," Ford said. "In life you have to be first class at your job, as a husband or as a wife — you always have to do what's right."
"He always pushes us to do our best," Paige Foraker, varsity cheer captain, said of Ford.
This year's JV squad also wanted to do their best since last year's squad won. However, Thayn said the win is not the only thing that matters.
"For me, as long as they go out and do what I know they can do, that's just as important — for them to prove they're as good as other teams," said Thayn.
"The whole squad worked together to get up to this point and it made us a real team in the end," JV cheer captain Amber Johnson said.
"We knew we had to work hard for it," JV song captain Maisie Kiefer said. "We all wanted first place."