Phoenix Cheerleaders Take Flight

From mastering preps and extensions to bringing the energy to the Pit, the Phoenix cheer team rises to the challenge of a tough competition season.


Sarah Baig

Phoenix cheerleaders lead the “go go, fight fight” chant in front of the student section to bring hype up the fans at the Pink Out game on Oct. 15. Freshman Jaden Thomas, sophomore Caitlynn Washington, and freshman Abby Welch stand in the front to lead the chant. The cheerleaders had pink bows in their hair for the pink out game.

On Aug. 2, the Phoenix cheer team lept into practices in preparation for their competition-filled season. New members and veterans alike spent the pre-season and after school practices gearing up for the road to districts, which took place on  Oct. 19 at Park View. 

The first competition of the cheer season took place at Park View on Sept. 29. 

“Our first competition we were struggling because we were nervous,” senior Omi Hernandez said. Coach Williams gave the Phoenix a pep talk before they entered the mat. “The moment when we all got off the mat knowing we hit everything, we cried of happiness. That was the best moment ever, we [had] worked so hard for it,” Hernandez said.  

Freshman Haasini Akkinei has seen growth through the season.“We’ve been hitting our more advanced stunts more often [and] we’re getting consistent in our routine and not messing up,” Akkineni said. “We did a lot better than expected; Rock Ridge is usually looked at as [more of] an academic school than athletic, [so] I’m really proud of the team for being able to do that.”

Practicing stunts for the next competition with guidance from Coach Cortnee Williams, Phoenix cheerleaders lift sophomore Ayanna Saini. “We will be competing against everyone in our district to make it to regionals,” Williams said. (Sarah Baig)

To prepare for a competition-packed season, the team practices every day after school. After warming up with an assortment of jumps and stretches, the team works on preps and extensions, which involve the bases holding the feet of the flyer while they are in the air for various stunts. 

 “We’ve been doing a lot of stunting —  mainly, I’ve been focusing on extensions,” freshman Vaniya Usman said. The stunt work in cheer is key for placing in competitions. Even with all the work the Phoenix put into their routines, they have faced fierce competition within the district this season. In their second competition, the Cheer Challenge at Dominion, the Phoenix placed third out of five teams. 

“It went well,” Hernandez said about the third competition, a district mini competition at Park View on Oct. 7.  The team only received one deduction on their score due to jewelry, but they didn’t place in the competition. “We realized the judges are looking for more difficult stunts than we’re doing, so we are going to try and knock it up a level,” Hernandez said. 

To take their performance up to the next level, the Phoenix turned up the heat, working out new stunts in preparation for districts. They added extended libs, which is a one leg stunt, to both of the elite stunts and a teddy bear prop. The new skills they have been working towards have been added to the routine since the first competitions.

Cheerleaders warm up by doing split jumps in sync. (Sarah Baig)











In addition to the months of practice put in to prepare for the season’s competitions, Phoenix cheerleaders keep The Pit’s spirits up at football games. The homecoming football game on Oct. 8, with the packed student section and victory against Park View, stuck out as a top moment of the season to the cheer team. 

“I had so much fun cheering for the crowd, the crowd was cheering with us, even the football [players] on the sidelines were joining us, like ‘hey let’s all cheer together!’ It was amazing,” Hernandez said.  

New cheerleaders, both to the sport and to the team, have been putting in the work, learning about the sport and themselves throughout the fall season.

“This is my first year of cheerleading, and my friend kind of forced me into it,” Usman said. “She told me everything before I went in, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard but it’s also really fun.”

Hernandez also joined cheer without any prior experience. “I learned that if you put limits on yourself you are never going to reach places that you never thought you could reach. I learned how to do stunts and things I never even thought I could do like balancing or going up in a prep.” Hernandez cites confidence, positivity and the support of her coaches and teammates as the keys to success. 

Hernandez encourages everyone to try cheerleading if they get the chance. “I was thinking that cheerleading meant that you had to be skinny, that you had to be beautiful, that you had to be all these things to be a cheerleader, but no. To be a cheerleader, you just have to be a good teammate, a good, positive person, and always try new things; that’s all you need,” Hernandez said.