Heather McKernan has been in cheerleading since she was 5 years old and loves the way being focused on cheer helps relieve stress, said McKernan.
Now at 17 years old, one title she won't need to stress on winning is 2013 Cheer Pros Calif. All-State All-Star Cheer Team — a feat she achieved Jan. 26 at the Cheer Pros Calif. State Championships at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. Only three cheerleaders were given the title.
The title was coupled with a $500 Academic and Community Outreach Scholarship. McKernan's community outreach includes coaching the Hesperia Trojans and volunteering with the kids at High Desert Church.
Her mother Sonja Smith cried when they announced McKernan the winner.
"I'm very proud of her — proud mom," Smith said. She attributes McKernan's hard work, dedication to cheer, good grades and involvement in the church as factors that helped her receive the scholarship.
"She definitely deserved it," fellow teammate Madori Griffin said. "She's really smart academically, she's caring and helps out in the public."
"She's a good example," said Desert Diamonds All Star Cheer secretary Tina Mercado, adding that McKernan has a positive attitude and encourages her teammates to succeed.
Previously a cheerleader at Oak Hills High School, McKernan said she cheers competitively because it's more extreme and intense with tumbling, back flips, back-hand springs and other stunts. She joined Desert Diamonds All Star Cheer's Lady Diamonds team in 2012.
The Lady Diamonds took an impressive win at the competition as well. They won first place in the state championships with their fellow team, Black Diamonds, winning third place.
"We strive to be the best not only in the High Desert but in our division too," said Desert Diamonds owner and coach Patrick Monjaraz.
Monjaraz was named a coach of the year finalist at the Cheer Pros State Championships. A competitive cheerleader himself, his team, Stealth All Star's International Open Coed 6, placed third at The Cheerleading Worlds 2012.
"Amazing, extremely supportive — he knows to push you," McKernan said of Monjaraz's influence on her skills. McKernan also likes that Monjaraz ends practices with prayer.
"God is close to all of us," Monjaraz said. "He plays a role in everything we do, in all of our actions."
"The Lord has kept her grounded," said Smith, who counts HDC and being in cheer a blessing.
When it comes to cheer, being grounded is not where McKernan wants to be.
"I want to fly, I love flying" McKernan said. Because of her height, her female teammates can't hold her up, counting out stunts that would involve her being airborne.
Flying will have to wait until she joins college cheer when she attends either Grand Canyon University or California State University Fullerton, where she'll study kinesiology or forensic nursing science, she said.
Desert Diamonds will hold cheer evaluations in May. Located at 12221 Poplar St., Suite 11, they offer tumbling, flying school, all-star cheerleading, free-running and private lessons. For more information call (760) 912-6994 or (760) 217-1804 or visit www.desertdiamondsallstarcheer.com.