For the first time in school history, the Davis High School cheer squad brought a trophy home from the United Spirit Association National Championships.
Competing in Anaheim over the weekend, the team placed second out of 15 high school teams in the super varsity show cheer novice division.
The super varsity division is for teams with between 21 and 32 members, and after losing a few squad members at the beginning of the season, the Blue Devils had to combine the junior varsity and varsity squads just to have enough athletes to qualify.
Even then, DHS had one of the smaller squads in the competition, unable to create the large visual formations many of their competitors could. Instead, they had to perform to perfection.
Heading into the weekend competition, the Devils knew they had to finish in the top five on Friday night in order to move on. A variety of elements were required in that performance, including tumbling, stunts, an elite sequence, a cheer, a pyramid, dance and jumps — all packed into 2 1/2 minutes.
The team was judged on how cleanly each element was performed, as well as timing, spacing, choreography and degree of difficulty.
At the end of the night, 10 squads were sent packing, but not the Blue Devils. DHS just made the cut, entering the finals as the fifth-place team.
That first night’s score counted for 30 percent of the overall score, so the locals knew they had some ground to make up in order to win a trophy on Saturday, and they did.
For the stunting portion of the routine on Saturday night, fliers Rana Eser, Mo Roeckl-Navazio, Alyssa Vitangcol, Camille Johnson and Summer Yeo were strong and balanced, held steady by bases and backspots Lauren Haverlock, Brittany Aldredge, Megan Klisiewicz, Addie Neel, Lauren Hupe, Aimee Davis, Megan Barlow, Lucia Palmer, Elisa Nelson, Shae Langley and Kathleen Pan.
Synchronized tumbling passes by Kalysta Holder, Adriana Lowry, Kaylee Boehm, Molly Bernard and Anna Verdiguel went off perfectly and the final pyramid was perfectly symmetrical.
Davis coach Danielle Eckert said she was thrilled with the Devils’ performance.
“The girls had to overcome a number of obstacles and had to work very hard to combine the JV and varsity squads and to learn the new routine quickly,” Eckert said. “They hit all elements perfectly under the pressure of the final round. It is a credit to all those young athletes that they were able to come from behind to shine when it mattered most.”
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - Saturday, August 21, 2010
Author: Julie Rooney; Special to The Enterprise
Davis High cheerleaders Melissa Lowry, Devon Rooney and Madison Sommer,
from left, practice at the Universal Cheerleaders Association camp over
the weekend. DHS scored well in each of its performances. (Courtesy photo)
Davis High School Cheer wrapped up four days of stunting, tumbling, cheering and dancing at the Universal Cheerleaders Association camp on Monday at UC Davis.
They left camp with a few more bumps and bruises than when they arrived, not to mention some lost voices along the way. But they also took home two trophies, a spirit stick and plenty of new material for football season.
The team placed third in the home pom routine and earned the highest mark, a superior rating, in all of their performances.
It's a young team, with only six juniors and seniors among the 22 members of this year's squad. While the team is young, it's loaded with talent. Tumbling will be a key component in halftime routines.
New coach Danielle Eckert is running the team through daily tumbling drills. More than half of the cheerleaders are performing back handsprings in practice, with a handful of girls practicing tucks.
Eckert, a UC Davis cheerleader and tumbling coach, is excited. Eckert was hired just two days before the team's practice season began, July 12, after former coach Alisha Eller resigned to take a teaching job in Colorado.
Eckert says she has been pleasantly surprised by what the team has to offer.
'I was shocked they had so much talent,' she said. 'They just need some direction and push to be better.'
Her goal is to have the team focus on basics and perfecting what they have before moving on to more advanced skills. She wants to make sure they are a good all-around squad and that they feel confident in the routines they perform.
'I know it will pay off for them in the long run,' she explained. 'They will be able to do solid performances.'
The team appreciates her approach.
Says Carlie Gantar, a junior on the varsity cheer squad, 'She makes sure we have the little things correct, that we practice until it's perfect,' she said. 'She's my new role model. She goes to college, cheers for her school and still has time to be our coach.'
In September, Eckert will be joined by Assistant Coach Julia Yamaguchi. Like Eckert, Yamaguchi is a UCD cheerleader and tumbling coach. She also has extensive competition experience. Yamaguchi is a United Spirit Association instructor and competition judge.
'I think Julia brings a lot of experience with her USA competition and stunting knowledge,' Eckert said. 'We will be a very nice coaching team with my choreography and crowd interaction experience and her technical skills with stunting and tumbling.'
Eckert plans to introduce new ideas and traditions to both the football and basketball game experience. Having led the Aggie cheer squad, she knows how to get a crowd pumped up.
'I am really excited to get school spirit going with the stadium completion,' she said. 'I think the cheer team can do a great job getting the crowd involved and boosting school spirit.'
The team will take a well-deserved week off to rest achy muscles and sore throats before heading back to practice on Monday.
Notes: Katrina Cole, a sophomore and captain of the JV team, competed in the camp's All-American cheerleader competition and earned UCA All-American Cheerleader status. ... Star tumbler Maya Giannetti will be sitting through most of summer practices due to a trampoline injury. She couldn't compete in this year's camp jump contest, a competition she won last year, but hopes to be back in full form for the first football game of the season. ... Yamaguchi is spending her summer working at an orphanage in Japan. She begins working with the squad on Sept. 21.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Author: Julie Rooney; Enterprise correspondent
Davis High School Cheer tumbled, twisted and shouted on Saturday at Antioch's Deer Valley High School for a United Spirit Association regional competition.
Kicking off the competition at 9 a.m., the Blue Devils started with a stunt routine choreographed and performed by Melissa Lowry, Maya Giannetti, Mia Knight, Christy Reves and Madison Sommer, who subbed for Carlie Gantar. With flawless stunts and strong tumbling, the team scored a 79, taking third out of 11 teams in the intermediate stunt comp category.
"(We) did very well (Saturday)," said Sommer, the junior varsity captain. "Every stunt was perfect."
A few minutes later, the stunt team of Kortney Nielsen, Devon Rooney , Carmela Padilla, Allie Emerson and Hannah Clark competed in the advanced stunt comp category. Nielsen, the squad's designated flyer, showed off her strength and flexibility, while tumblersRooney and Clark performed standing back handsprings. It was a solid performance, giving the team an 81 and a bid to nationals.
"They did amazing," Nielsen said of her stunt team. "I am very proud of everyone. They worked so hard."
But the promising day took a wrong turn when the stunt team of Emma Shorts, Kira Nielsen, Ashley Faris, Nicole Magrino and Nicole Dockter were forced to scratch. Running through their routine just moments before going on, an elbow to Nielsen's nose sent the Devils' varsity captain to the medic for a check. While not broken, the nose was banged up and bloody. Hoping to buy a little time, DHS asked for a later performance slot, but was denied by program organizers.
In the afternoon, the full squad took the mat for its 2 1/2-minute competition routine. While they performed well overall, a couple of dropped stunts and a spacing problem lost the Blue Devils key points they needed to place.
However, the performance wasn't too costly as DHS had already locked up its bid to nationals on Dec. 6 at a USA competition at UC Davis.
Notes: This week, the Blue Devils turn their attention to boys basketball. The squad will cheer at tonight's game against Elk Grove and then again Friday, when the boys host Franklin. On Friday, the DHS cheer team is scheduled to perform at halftime.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Author: Julie Rooney; Enterprise correspondent
It was the performance of a lifetime for the Davis High School cheerleading squad inside The Pavilion at UC Davis. The team earned a bid to nationals with a flawless competition routine on Sunday, scoring an 81 at the USA Northern California Holiday Classic.
The daylong event brought 104 cheer , dance and hip-hop teams to Davis from as far away as Reno and the Bay Area.
The 30-person DHS squad competed against seven teams in what was the largest division of the day: Varsity Show Intermediate for squads of 17-36 members. After competing in the novice category in previous years, the step up to intermediate went smoothly for DHS.
"They did phenomenal," coach Nez Smiley said. "That was the best I have ever seen them do in a competition."
The team's score wasn't high enough to place in the top three, however as Monta Vista, Heritage and Alhambra, all from the Bay Area, swept those spots.
Smiley and assistant coach Chelsea Newman said they were surprised DHS didn't place higher, but added they were pleased with the team's clean performance.
"I know how hard they worked," Newman said. "They did fabulous. I am so proud of them."
Sunday's event marked the first time Davis had performed its 21/2-minute competition routine.
The routine is professionally choreographed and performed throughout the season, concluding with a performance at the USA Nationals in Anaheim on March 26-28.
Next up for DHS is a stunt competition on Jan. 9 in Stockton. Fifteen of the 30 Blue Devil cheerleaders are performing in stunt competitions this season, as stunting is optional for the Davis cheer squad. Five-person teams throw up stunts that feature a flyer's athleticism and flexibility, and the strength and skill of the four cheerleaders who lift and catch her.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - Friday, August 21, 2009
Author: Julie Rooney; Special to The Enterprise
The Davis High School cheerleaders started off the season with several big wins at the Universal Cheerleaders Association Camp Champs in Santa Barbara, Aug. 11-14.
The squad of 31 cheerleaders took home first place in the Extreme Routine and Performance Cheer categories. They also earned a superior rating in all of their performances, garnering three trophies for their efforts.
This team knows how to jump. DHS juniors Devon Rooney and Juliette Suarez placed in the top six in the camp's jump competition that included 30 cheerleaders from six high schools. Blue Devil freshman Maya Giannetti was crowned the camp's top jumper.
"The girls were amazing," said head coach Nez Smiley.
Smiley is excited to see what the team can do this year. She has high expectations and predicts it will be the most successful squad she has coached.
"I can tell these girls really want it and are going to push themselves to perfection. Makes my job easy."
The squad is one of the few teams in the greater Sacramento area that competes. On Sunday, they will spend seven hours working with a choreographer to learn their competition routine — a 21/2-minute performance that combines cheer , dance, stunting and tumbling. This routine will be performed at three regional competitions where the Blue Devils will vie for a spot at the United Spirit Association's national competition in March. If they make nationals, it will be the fifth consecutive year the team has reached the national competition level.
New this season is a full slate of stunt competitions. Coach Smiley has formed four, five- person stunt groups that will perform high- flying routines at several competitions devoted solely to stunting.
Assistant Coach Chelsea Newman says it's a multi-talented team that can tumble, stunt and dance. So far, she likes what she sees.
"They are very willing to try everything we throw at them," Newman says.
The cheerleaders kick off the season on Friday, Aug. 28, at the Blue and White Scrimmage, a practice game for both football players and cheerleaders. Played on the DHS practice field, the freshmen begin at 4 p.m., JV at 5 and Varsity at 6.
Notes: The DHS Cheerleaders began their season July 15. The team practices two hours a day, four days a week (games on Fridays) through the end of March. It's among the longest seasons of any DHS Sport.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - January 22, 2009
Author: Julie Rooney; Enterprise staff writer
ANTIOCH — The Blue Devil cheerleaders took a break from cheering for other teams this past Saturday. It was the sport of cheerleading that took center court all day at the Deer Valley High School gym in Antioch.
Sixty teams turned out for the United Spirit Association regional meet, including cheer squads, stunt teams and mascots.
The competition began at 9 a.m. for Davis High School's cheerleading stunt team of Rachel Hamilton, Nicole Magrino, Carmela Padilla, Stephanie Woo and Juliette Suarez, who substituted for Jamie Safran.
Performing stunts like toe touches, basket tosses, dip turns and arabesques, the team completed seven maneuvers without a wobble or fall. Woo showed off her tumbling skills with a powerful back handspring.
"I was just looking to hit everything," Hamilton said.
The routine was good enough to earn the stunt team a place at the nationals in March.
"They did amazing," DHS cheerleading head coach Nez Smiley said. "This is Rachel's first year cheering and stunting. This is brand-new for her. She had great body control. Her stunting and flexibility were awesome."
Hamilton was quick to add she didn't do it alone.
"My group is really supportive," she said of her stunt team.
Fliers, like Hamilton, rely on the team members below them — a front, a back and two bases — for their strength and technical skills to throw a flyer several feet in the air and catch her, keeping her upright and stable throughout a one-minute stunt routine.
Later in the day, the full squad performed their competition routine.
The Blue Devils started out strong, hitting all of their stunts and executing smooth tumbling passes. The dance was sharp and synchronized, but the group dropped stunts in the second-half of the routine.
Coach Smiley said it was a challenging day for the squad, with captain Deanna Seil out of town for the inauguration and several team members recovering from weeklong illnesses.
While the team didn't place, Smiley said they improved upon their 2008 Antioch competition score and once again qualified for Nationals.
The squad is back in action on Feb. 8 when they perform at their final regional competition of the season at UC Davis.
Note: The DHS stunt teams are an optional squad within the 26-person cheerleading team. This is the second year the squad has formed a competition stunt team.
— Reach Julie Rooney at (530) 747-8051. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Author: Julie Rooney; Enterprise staff writer
The Davis High School cheerleaders were flying high on Sunday after placing second at the USA Northern California Holiday Classic at The Pavilion at UC Davis.
The 26-person squad scored an 84 out of 100, the highest score the team has received in competition. It was high enough to earn DHS a place at the USA Nationals competition in Anaheim in March, which features the top teams from around the nation.
Coach Nez Smiley, who choreographed the routine, was thrilled with the performance.
"They did awesome," she said. "They hit all their stunts. They had great energy. It was just phenomenal."
More than 100 teams competed on Sunday, including cheerleaders, dance teams and hip hop groups. DHS competed in the large varsity division, with Notre Dame High School of Belmont taking top honors.
Notre Dame and DHS are regulars on the competition circuit. The teams met up at UC Davis in February at the USA Spirit Championships, with Davis beating out the Bay Area squad and taking second.
But it was Notre Dame who came out on top at the 2008 Nationals, placing second in the nation.
Coach Smiley said she's confident her team can beat Notre Dame and place at Nationals.
"I think they have a great chance of making it in the top five," she said, adding that DHS beat Monta Vista on Sunday — a team that placed third at Nationals.
It was senior Rachel Hamilton's first competition.
"I think we did well, but I was really, really nervous," she said. "It was crazy."
Senior varsity co-captain Maddy Hanen was just a spectator on Sunday as she was recovering from knee surgery.
"That was amazing," she said, hugging her teammates. "It was so good."
Smiley was pleased to see a clean routine, especially the flawless pyramid the team performed.
"The girls had hit it maybe 50 percent of the time in practice," she said.
She also gave props to freshman flyer Cayla Mathews, who stuck her liberty, a challenging one-legged stunt she has been working to perfect all season.
"She came through on a clutch moment," Smiley added.
Competitive cheerleading routines are different from the typical football half-time show. Routines are 2-1/2 minutes in length with points deducted for going over the allotted time. Judges are looking for the level of difficulty and execution of stunts, tumbling and dance, synchronization as well as how the squad can rally the crowd.
"This year we have a team capable of everything," Smiley said. "We're a triple threat. We have great stunters, dancers and tumblers. I think we have the ability to compete among the best in the nation."
But, before DHS heads to Nationals, the team has two more regional meets. Next up is a competition on Jan. 17 in Antioch.
To learn more about the team or to see videos of past performances, visit www.dhscheer.org.
— Reach Julie Rooney at (530) 747-8051.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - November 13, 2008
Author: Bruce Gallaudet; Enterprise staff writer
Two hours a day, four days a week they practice together.
Some lift weights. Some run.
Annual tryouts are intense.
If these girls don't literally pick up their teammates, someone can be seriously injured.
During the fall, every Friday night it's game time.
In the winter, there could be three games in a given week.
For three consecutive years, these Davis High athletes have advanced to the USA High School Nationals in Anaheim.
So, don't you ever say cheerleading is not a sport. Understand?
"These girls work just as hard as any other team here at the high school," cheer team coach Dinezbaa Smiley tells everyone who'll listen. "We try to get the (people here at Davis) to recognize this as a sport. I still think it has a stigma, but cheerleading is, indeed, athletics and a sport."
The California Interscholastic Federation says it's a sport and most administrators on campus agree ... but to many, the 27 Blue Devils girls on the sidelines are, well, cheerleaders.
"If they knew us ... saw how hard everyone works, they would know," says Maddy Hanen, one of the senior co-captains. "We are just as much representatives of the school as those teams (on the field). These girls are like a second family to me because we're together nine months a year. My closest friends are on the squad."
To be a cheerleader , all CIF grade (2.0 GPA) and conduct requirements must be met. Smiley says most her charges are "way into" the 3.0s academically.
Also, a handful of team members have enrolled in dance and tumbling training outside of school.
Divided into varsity (14) and junior varsity (13), the Davis cheer team performs at all Blue Devils home football games, then switches gears and comes in designated numbers to home basketball games. Dinezbaa, who goes by Nez, says the cheer team is available for any sport, "but rarely gets requests."
The Devils have tumblers, stunters and dancers, with only six girls specializing in tumbling.
Ranging from intricate pyramids to simple "push-'em-back" cheers, the girls rely on each other for encouragement, physical strength during routines, fundraising and consolation during and right after tryouts.
Injuries are frequent, and when they occur, it's back to the drawing board on some stunts.
"We've had to redo entire routines because a key performer got hurt ... and she was the only one able to do that skill," Smiley says, frowning. "We really do need each other."
Kind of like when a star running back goes down, that football team might resort to the air. Same with cheer team: that triple-twist, basket-catch landing just became a pyramid with a step-down.
Tryouts are conducted in April and Smiley puts together a judging panel that includes former DHS cheerleaders , maybe one or two from UC Davis and a couple of adults.
"The judges can't know (the girls) trying out," the coach promises.
Unlike at some other schools, the varsity and junior varsity teams are almost seamless. They practice together, cheer together, hang together.
Smiley — an ex- cheerleader who graduated from Davis in 2004 — early on bought into that "stigma" she talks about:
"In junior high I thought (cheerleading) was wimpy. I played other sports and didn't really consider cheerleading until a friend of mine, who was involved with cheer, told me I should try out.
"I knew it would be easy and just to (show her) how easy it really was, I tried out as a sophomore.
"I couldn't believe it when I didn't make it!"
Smiley dropped the other sports and focused on routines, conditioning and attitude. As a junior, she was on the pep squad, refocused and apologetic about dismissing the sport. That's right, the sport of cheerleading.
Deanna Seil, the other team captain, came to Davis three years ago. She swam at DHS after playing soccer at Rim of the World High School in Southern California, but turned to cheer.
"It helps me be a better public speaker; I have my best friends here and the competition is exciting," Seil says.
Hanen came to Davis from Australia and hung up her softball gear for cheer.
"We really are a family. If anybody knows me, they'll tell you I'm loud. This is great," she says.
"Cheerleading let's you be yourself and let's you gain confidence."
Competition for cheer teams is two-fold. Helping the mainstream teams get the crowds behind them is the primary goal. Secondary, but nonetheless important, are those national competitions when form and fire win out.
"We'll be going to three regional meets," Smiley says.
First up is UC Davis on Dec. 14.
These regionals have served as stepping stones to the nationals each of the three years Smiley has been at the helm.
"We hope to be back," says Nez, whose Navajo first name means Wild Flower.
Smiley excuses herself from the focus. There's a little noise in the background.
"Oh, that's Tatum. Our mascot," Smiley says, grinning. Tatum is the coach's 7-month-old daughter, and between the team, Smiley and her mother Gloria Delgado, is given special attention.
If you listen closely, one would swear Tatum was working on the first part of that "We're-From-Davis" cheer...
Notes: The Davis cheer team works out from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday during football season in the dance room at the high school. In the winter, the team jockeys with the wrestlers for room use.
In addition to Smiley, sophomore Aggie cheerleader Suzy Ordway is a volunteer assistant and parent advisers include Pat Safran, Julie Rooney, Marci Bernard and Libby Seil. Fundraisers will again range from carwashes to working the school snack bar to a coupon night at a local restaurant.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8059. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - February 6, 2008
Author: Julie Rooney; Enterprise staff writer
The Davis High School cheerleaders pulled off a second-place finish on Sunday at the USA California Spirit Championships at The Pavilion at UC Davis.
Competing in the varsity show novice division, the 26-person squad performed a nearly flawless routine, scoring an 82 out of 100.
“All of our stunts hit and looked clean, our energy was up and everyone looked like a pro on the floor,” DHS coach Nez Smiley said. The coach added that it was the team’s best performance to date.
DHS beat out Ygnacio Valley High, as well as Aptos, Montgomery and Notre Dame. Tracy took first place.
The cheerleaders wrap up their season in March when they head to Anaheim for the USA Nationals competition.
It’s been a winning year for the squad, which has garnered a reputation for its challenging high-flying stunts and the speed at which the members execute their routines. The team's choreography also has received high marks from competition judges. Smiley, a former DHS cheerleader, is the choreographer. She began coaching the squad in 2006.
This year’s DHS squad is comprised of nine seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and eight freshmen.
The last chance to see the DHS cheerleaders perform this season is at a pep rally at the high school on Friday morning, followed by two performances in the evening when DHS boys basketball takes on Laguna Creek. Freshmen play at 4 p.m., JV at 5:30 p.m., followed by varsity at 7 p.m.
It's “Break the Record Night,” where the community is invited to show their school spirit and break the previous basketball attendance record.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - January 16, 2008
Author: Julie Rooney; Enterprise staff writer
Davis High School’s cheerleading stunt teams showed their strength and athleticism on Saturday, competing in the group stunt category in the USA Regional Competition in Antioch where they earned a bid to nationals.
Stunt team 1 earned a score of 84.33 and placed fifth out of 17 teams. Stunt team 2 earned a score of 80.67, but did not place.
“This was the first time in DHS history that we have sent girls to this type of competition,” DHS coach Nez Smiley said. “Their stunts are at the highest level of high school cheer and may even rival some collegiate teams.”
Smiley went on to say that she believes DHS will score in the top 10 in the country when it competes at the USA Nationals competition in Anaheim in March.
The DHS stunt teams are an optional squad within the 26-person cheerleading team. The entire team earned a bid to nationals in December when it competed in the USA Northern California Classic at UC Davis in the varsity show novice category. Teams have three competitions in which to earn a bid to nationals. The squad and stunt groups all earned a bid at their first competition of the season.
The team competes in their final home competition on Sunday, Feb. 3, at The Pavilion.
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - December 6, 2007
Author: Juie Rooney, Enterprise staff writer
The Davis High School cheerleaders took home a superior rating at the USA Northern California Holiday Classic on Sunday at UC Davis, scoring an 81 out of a possible 100.
The 26-member team competed in the Varsity Show novice category, earning an invitation to compete in the semifinals at the national competition in Anaheim March 7-9.
“It feels good to have a bid to nationals,” said Nez Smiley, head cheerleading coach for DHS. “It shows that our hard work paid off.”
Teams have three regional meets in which to qualify for a place at nationals. The Davis team scored high, earning a bid in its first meet of the year.
“Our next two competitions carry less pressure and we' ll have more time to focus on nationals,” Smiley added.
The team hits the road on Jan. 12 for a competition in Antioch.
Until then, DHS will be cheering and performing at boys and girls basketball home games.