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The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


From Practice to Performance and Beyond: Cheer Season Recap

As the fall cheer season comes to an end, Phoenix cheerleaders discuss the ups, downs, and in-betweens–on the mat, off the mat, and more.
Held up by a group of cheerleaders, flyer sophomore Leyu Yonas poses as part of a stunt, also supported by flyer junior Shayne Mitchell behind her. (Left) Prior to the pink out football game on Oct. 13, the athletes practiced in the aux gym from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Right) On Oct. 19, the cheerleaders competed in their District Championships at Woodgrove High School. “We definitely put all our effort on the mat [at Districts], and it showed,” Mitchell said. Left: Photo by Nadia Shirr. Right: Photo by Steve Prakope via Victor O’Neill Studios.

Nov. 3 marks the last practice for the varsity and junior varsity cheer teams’ fall season. The teams, coached by school counselor Ashley Hastings and Coach Cortnee Williams, had a challenging but satisfactory season. With 19 varsity cheerleaders and 10 JV cheerleaders spanning all grade levels, cheer served as a place of connection and community.

Tryouts for the fall season took place on July 31, Aug. 1, and Aug. 2 –before the school year started for most students. After June 20, prospective cheerleaders also visited “Open Gym” on Tuesdays and Thursdays to get a feel for the cheer team’s atmosphere. During this time, athletes could practice tumbling and stunts to prepare for tryouts and the upcoming season.

Practices officially began on Aug. 3, the day after tryouts. Since then, cheerleaders arrived everyday before school to rehearse and train before the school day started. In the beginning of the season, this meant practicing from 5:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., but later this changed to 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. 

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Backspot freshman Hannah Fawzy practices jumps on her AirTrack at home, which she describes as a “really long trampoline but less bouncy,” she said. After being a gymnast for five years, Fawzy decided to start cheer at the beginning of this season. Since then, she has become stronger as a backspot, helping the bases (the people holding up the person in the air) so they don’t have to carry all the weight of the flyer (the person in the air).

The team’s hard work showed throughout the season at pep rallies and football games. The first home game that the cheerleaders participated in was on Sept. 1. It was their first opportunity to show off their skills and routines to the student body. Throughout the fall season, they continued to show their school spirit.

There’s more to cheer than just sideline, though. “We may just be cheerleaders, and we wave pom-poms and stuff, but that’s only the sideline [version of] us,” captain and side base senior Raegan Carper said. “The competition [version of] us is a whole, completely different story.” At competitions, the team performs a 3-minute routine for judges, full of stunting, tumbling, and more. 

The first of these competitions was on Sept. 20, but the team couldn’t compete due to many athletes being injured. Their second competition, “District Minis,” was held on Oct. 4 at Park View High School. Ultimately, the team placed fifth.

Nonetheless, the cheerleaders persevere and push to improve, and the District Championships ultimately found main base sophomore Tatiana Bernard ready to face the challenge head on. “I think we are capable of doing it if everyone just believes in it, and we put in our all,” Bernard said, the day before heading off to Woodgrove High School on Oct. 19. “I think we’re doing really good this season. There were some complications throughout the season, but we were able to bounce back, and our team probably had our strongest season so far.”

In the end, the cheer team placed 5th out of five teams. Some of the cheerleaders felt defeated while others were more optimistic. “I definitely thought we did good at [the district] comp, but the judges didn’t think so apparently,” Fawzy said. “We hit everything, nobody fell, but we didn’t win.”

Despite the loss, the athletes didn’t hold bitter feelings and had fun with the other cheerleaders. “My favorite part of the whole season and being a part of the team is what we do at the end of every competition we go to: we dance with all the other cheerleaders, and we form a dance circle,” Carper said. “That just makes me feel good because even though we’re on different teams and we’re from different schools, we believe in each other as one.”

Surrounded by excited cheerleaders from (left to right) Heritage High School, Loudoun Valley High School, and Rock Ridge High School, captain and main base senior Raegan Carper dances in the center of the Woodgrove High School gym. Photo courtesy of Steve Prakope via Victor O’Neill Studios.

Overall, this season has been one for growth. Bernard has not only seen improvement with the team, but also with herself. “Normally, I’m the type of person to get upset if I don’t do things right, but this year I was able to learn and just to do better the next time and work on my cheer routine to get better.”

This spirit of hard work and dedication is shared by Carper. “[A] majority of our time is cheer,” Carper said. “[A] majority of my life is basically cheer. I put so much effort into it–just being a part of this team, just to be a member or call myself a Rock Ridge Phoenix. We basically put our life and soul into it.”

The team didn’t improve alone, though. Their coaches, while often critical, played an integral role.

“Half the time they’re yelling at us,” Carper said. “[But], I know [Coach Williams] loves us, and she’s only hard on us because she doesn’t like seeing us fall apart.”

“They’re kind of like angry moms, but in a good way,” flyer junior Shayne Mitchell said. “They taught me a lot about being determined and trying things over and over again even if it doesn’t work, and just believing in yourself even if you think you can’t do it.”

“Our coaches are everything,” Fawzy said. “They believe in us everything no matter what. They will fight for our team to win. Our coaches will fight for us.” 

For many, cheer allowed athletes to leave the regular stresses of school behind. “We come in with a very positive mindset so whatever we’re feeling outside of it, we come here to get away from all of that,” Carper said.

By the end of the season, cheer became a place for athletes to bond, grow, and enjoy themselves. “[I have] definitely no regrets at all,” Mitchell said.

Cheer will return in the winter season to support the basketball teams.

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Dayanna Anton
Dayanna Anton, Staff Writer
Dayanna is a sophomore in her first year on staff. In her free time, Dayanna watches videos on YouTube and plays video games. She is very open to playing all types of video games, such as Roblox with her friends. Dayanna is hoping to re-join Key Club again this year. Dayanna is also part of a program called Campus, where she gets to know more about College and all the necessary steps for getting into it once she graduates high school.
Samantha Chang
Samantha Chang, Staff Writer
Samantha Chang is a sophomore in her second year of staff. An artist and writer from a young age, she has decided to continue working on the newspaper due to the positive experience and friendships she made in her first year. Samanatha has many hobbies, such as painting, writing, and her newfound favorite, krav maga. In school, she’s a dedicated student favoring classes that involve English and tends to stay away from science and math. In the future she hopes to become a journalist or artist.
Sydney Nguyen
Sydney Nguyen, Design Editor
Sydney Nguyen is a senior and the Design Editor for The Blaze. While creating and designing spreads for the newspaper is one of Sydney’s favorite parts, they also enjoy writing articles. This year, Syd is most looking forward to AP Literature. In the coming year, Sydney plans to go to college and major in computer science while still continuing her hobbies of journalism and graphic design. Sydney especially enjoys the Art and Literature Club and being in the marching band at Rock Ridge as a top bass and saxophone player. Sydney’s favorite activities to do in their free time include drawing, rollerblading, scootering, and biking with their family.
Nadia Shirr
Nadia Shirr, Staff Writer
Nadia Shirr is a junior and this is her second year on The Blaze. She joined so she could have a more fun, and chill class. When there's a new event to cover, she likes to write about it so she can give her perspective on the topic. Shirr has also been involved in crew for the last two years. Shirr would like to go out of state for college, but is still undecided as to what she’d like to study.

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