Oakley’s Freedom High School competitive sport cheer team may look different from last year’s undefeated squad, but their results have been very similar.
Fresh from winning the Bay Valley Athletic League and North Coast Section (NCS) titles in its inaugural campaign last year, the team — which returned just nine of 25 members to start the season — has racked up an impressive 15-1 record this year, which is enough to share the league title with Liberty High School (the only team to beat the Falcons this season), and secure the top seed in Saturday’s North Coast Section tournament.
“It’s been a really good season,” said coach Sandra Torres. “We are excited for NCS.”
Freedom has outscored its opponents 288-72, and twice beat 17-2 rival Liberty, despite falling to the Lions in another matchup.
Unlike traditional competitive cheer, which includes all aspects of cheerleading — crowd cheers, dance, jumps, tumbling and stunts — competitive sport competitions emphasize head-to-head competition with both teams performing the same routines to the same music. Games are played on nine-panel mats, and teams perform routines comprising partner stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, group jumps and tumbling in four-quarter games.
This is only the second year that state high school competitive-cheer activities have been governed by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the state’s high school sports governing body.
The Falcons, with momentum from their scintillating, albeit abbreviated, nine-game season last year, increased their roster size by seven to start the season, rifled through six new non-league opponents and one new league addition (Deer Valley), learned all-new routines, refined their practice techniques to elevate their fourth-quarter stamina to outlast the competition and battled through noticeably stricter judging.
“We have definitely practiced a lot more and added a lot more practices for tumbling,” said senior Peyton Tobin. “I think that has helped a lot.”
The team’s continued development, however, will be tested on Saturday, when it looks to win its second consecutive NCS title, and advance to the first-ever California Interscholastic Federation state tournament. The one-day NCS tournament features one eight-team bracket, with the top two teams expected to advance to the state event.
Torres expects their top competition to include Liberty, Dougherty Valley, Clayton Valley and California high schools.
“We are going to have to be perfect,” Torres said. “I don’t mean that to be flippant. They are going to have to be perfect because the teams are good. It’s going to come down to who can eliminate mistakes, because there are so many teams that can do all the routines and do them well.”
The team believes it will be ready, several members said this week.
“We work hard at practice,” said sophomore Hannah Paz. “Our coaches really push us to our fullest ability and make sure we work hard and our stamina is up.”
Freedom and Liberty garmed the top two NCS seeds when they were announced Wednesday. The all-day North Coast Section tournament is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. this Saturday, at Dougherty Valley High School.
“We are just going to go and have fun,” Torres said. “It’s just exciting to be there. We are going to play our best game and hope it goes well. That is all we can do at this point.”
To view the complete NCS bracket, visit bit.ly/thepressnet_NCSbracket.