Applause for cheer

Cheer team places ninth in finals at UIL Spirit State Championship
Junior co-captain Austin Martinez and freshman cheerleader Olivia Lawrence on mat during prelims.
Junior co-captain Austin Martinez and freshman cheerleader Olivia Lawrence on mat during prelims.
Avery Humphries

Though it may come as a surprise, sometimes it’s the cheer team that needs their own cheerleaders! Like when they made school history in finals at the UIL Spirit State Championship. 

Johnson cheer competed at the UIL Spirit State Championship in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday. After advancing through the preliminary round, the team placed ninth in the 6A division II finals. They plan to close out their competition season with UCA Nationals at Orlando, Fla. in February. 

“I’ve told the girls and Austin since the very beginning of the season that this year is a special year,” coach Tiffany Stratton said. “I think that you kind of just can feel it. It’s a great group. I’m not asking for something perfect, I’m asking for them to do exactly what they’ve done every single day at practice since August.”

This year the team has taken their routine, choreographed by Stratton and the varsity captains, to two UCA regional competitions, both of which they received first place as they prepared for UIL.

“Leading through the comp season was rough at first, but I think once we all found out the way we mix together, it just got easier,” senior captain Alyssa Tello said. “We all knew what we came to do.”

Senior captain Alyssa Tello on mat during finals. (Avery Humphries)

In order to qualify for finals, a team’s prelim performance must place top 20 in their division. Johnson cheer had not accomplished this feat in the past three years of competing. However, that did not hold them back this year. 

“I would say making finals, like hearing our name called for finals, was definitely the best feeling,” freshman cheerleader Alexis Martinez said. “We’ve had so many practices and we practice for hours every single week for a three minute routine. It was so rewarding and it makes everything so worth it, and you would do it all again just to hear your name called again.”

Between prelims and finals, the team had a few hours to prepare their routine for the big moment under the stage lights. They were the last team to compete in the entire competition, which made it even more special for them. 

“Stratton said to just leave it all out there and have fun with it,” freshman cheerleader Alyssa Vance said. “We were the last people so we were like, ‘We’re gonna strut off, and we’re gonna blow a kiss at them.’ They were there for us and they were all waiting for us, so if we really showed out they were gonna be like, ‘Oh, who’s this team?’ which has never really happened before.”

The team will be moving on to UCA Nationals at Orlando, Fla. in Febuary. They have been working to raise money for the occasion and improve their performance before competing. One fundraiser will be a to-go pork chop dinner served to Johnson students, family, and staff on Jan. 18. 

“Nationals [isn’t necessarily] as hard as UIL, but definitely a different type of level of hard,” Tello said. “I feel like it’s gonna be a tough competition, but it’s not something we’re not capable of. I feel very confident if we keep going the way we’re going.”

Looking to the future, Johnson cheer will continue to wield their school spirit with pride. With top-10 in Texas under their belt, Tello sees the upcoming years being bright. 

“It’s gonna be good,” Tello said. “This is our come-back season and I feel like we needed that confidence boost to get it in our heads that we’re good. It’s on physical paper that like, we’re good. And so it just makes me excited to see what there is to come for the future.”

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About the Contributor
Avery Humphries, Editor
Junior Avery Humphries is an editor for the Jag Journal and part of the UIL journalism team. She is also a varsity cheer manager and sings in the varsity treble choir at Johnson.
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