This was a big year for Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools, literally, in the 2017 Oregon State Cheerleading Championships.
The 6A division teams no longer could compete in Small and Large categories, and were all facing off against each other during the competition on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. Still, a total of 17 teams competed, and despite facing off against larger teams, LOHS landed third place in the competition, with 174.9 points, and Lakeridge took home seventh place, with 164.8 points.
Pacer cheer team co-captain and senior Peyton Miller says she and her team gave it all they had.
"I was in tears coming off of the mat because I put four years of energy into that," Miller says.
Kayla Matlock, Laker cheer team member and junior, says it was an exciting day.
"We were overjoyed and ecstatic," Matlock says. "Just really happy."
Performances involved mid-air splits and human pyramids with the upper tiers dropping into the arms of waiting team mates afterward as well as body flips, somersaults and rousing chants. Teams do all of the above in formation, in time — all while wielding pompoms and wide smiles.
Terrie Sheik, head cheer coach for LOHS, says that Westview and Aloha, were expected to take first and second, and the only question was which of the other many closely matched teams could slip into the third-place slot.
Yet this year was different, and not only because of the new categorization system, but also because LOHS took home the Positivity Award. The award is in its third year honoring Kim Hunter, a former board member of Oregon Cheerleading Coaches Association, who died three years ago from cancer, Sheik says.
Sheik says watching her team receive the Kim Hunter Positivity Spirit Award was an amazing moment for her.
"My heart was so full Saturday, beyond full," she says.
Christine Cooper, head cheer coach for Lakeridge, says she is pleased her team did so well, despite facing off against larger teams.
"This was the best performance they had all season," Cooper says. "We definitely peaked at state, which was our goal."
Last year, Laker cheerleaders earned third place and the Pacers pocketed fourth place in the former 6A Small Division. At the time, LOHS had not earned a place in the top three since 2008 when the team took first. Although, Lakeridge and LOHS had placed in the Top 10 for several years.
Triumph over history aside, LOHS senior and co-captain Danielle Smith was excited about the whole experience at state this year, including that she was chosen to sing the national anthem. A judge heard the Laker mezzo-soprano sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the Laker Rumble cheer competition at her school, and asked her to perform for the state championship.
"I don't think the day could have gone any better," says Smith, who recently starred as Maria in the LOHS rendition of "The Sound of Music."
She says she believes her team earned the Positivity Award for its attitude of kindness toward each other and other teams.
"That's the standard on our mat," she says.
Lakers cheer team co-captain Johanna Selover-Stephan says it was a strange moment where she was "Almost numb from being so happy." Selover-Stephan says Laker cheerleaders may have performed to a compilation featuring "Handclap" by Fitz and the Tantrums and "Confident" by Demi Lovato, but cheer team members have a song "All Star" by Smashmouth that they sing before they perform. The song ends with the line: "Only shooting stars break the mold."
Lakeridge senior and co-captain Joiya Dusi says she got overwrought with excitement at the end of her team's state performance to a medley that includes songs such as Rihanna's "Diamonds," zinging sound effects and a voiceover that says "Pacer Cheer." When her team finished, she tossed a rock 'n' roll hand high up in the air and shortly thereafter lost her lunch, as a few other girls did as well.
"We did the best we could," Dusi says.
Audrey Olsen, Pacer senior and co-captain, also enjoyed the moment, intense as it may have been.
"It felt good," she says. "I was happy ending my cheer career with that."
Cooper added that the cheer season is not quite over yet. There is still more to come, with United Spirit Association's Spirit Nationals coming up for the Pacers and the Lakers on March 24-26 in Anaheim, Calif.
"It's not the end," she says. "We've still got nationals."