Contributed photo/Beverly Nañez
The Dalles cheer squad tallied 172.5 points for first place out of 10 teams in the small co-ed division at Saturday’s Scotsmen Rumble held at David Douglas High School. In the photo are, starting in the back row, from left to right, Caleb Parsons, Giselle Schwartz, Stephanie Flores, Breanna Birchfield, Emily Adams, Olivia Thomas and Nathan Nañez. In the middle row are, from left, Amber Hillegas, Ari Acevedo, Ellie Cardosi and Mackenzie Smith. In the front row are, Lizzy Olivan, Hannah Kortge, Karla Hernandez, Hannah Wallis, Mikiyle Branther and Meli Avila.
Still acclimating to the tougher small coed division, The Dalles cheer squad is quickly showing that they are one of the top contenders in the 5A ranks.
Coming off a third-place finish at the Pacer Invitational, The Dalles left nothing to chance with 172.5 points for top honors against nine other schools at the Scotsmen Rumble Saturday at David Douglas High School in Portland.
The Riverhawk trio of Emily Adams, Giselle Schwartz and Hannah Kortge were happy to get the team’s first victory of the competitive cheer season and did so with a solid improvement from their season-opening performance.
They all know they will be challenged much more over the next three weeks ahead of state on Feb. 9, so being well-prepared and mentally strong are going to be critical to future success.
“Walking away from last weekend, we really improved in our confidence and believing in ourselves,” Adams said. “We brought our scores up from the last competition, but we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Head coach Kelsey Sugg-Wallace set a goal of putting out a clean, well-executed routine, and while there were two deductions on stunting faults, the team had a 23-point increase, mostly due to fine-tuning and working their formations and adding a few changes to the dance section.
Of the three categories, overall routine consisted of formations, routine creativity, motions, voice, cheer, dance, and overall impression, which The Dalles totaled a 56 out of 60.
In tumbling and jumps, the Riverhawks had to perform standing tumbling difficulty, standing tumbling execution, running tumbling difficulty, running tumbling execution, jump difficulty, jump execution, and synchronization, for a 59.5 out of a possible 80 points.
Building skills, one of the more challenging events, involved stunt difficulty, stunt execution, pyramid difficulty, pyramid execution, toss difficulty, toss execution, and building skills creativity, with a 59 out of 80 on the scorecards to boost their combined total up to 174.5, 172.5 with two points deducted, which placed them ahead of runner-up Summit and third-place Henley.
Because of those two deductions, Sugg-Wallace was unsure if the team had enough to take first place, so when the announcement came over the loud speaker, everyone on the team was in shock.
“It goes to show that hard work pays off,” Sugg-Wallace said. “These kids have been giving me all they have at practice and I firmly believe that is why we walked away with a first-place finish. Our job is far from over and I’m hoping this gives my kids the motivation and drive to finish the year on a positive note. I’m thankful for each and every one of them and trying to cherish every last minute with them as our year is quickly coming to an end.”
While this year’s routine is harder than last years, Schwartz credited her teammates for being dedicated to putting the best routine out on the mat every time.
With just three seniors on a younger roster, there have been several underclassmen rising to the occasion to get the team back on top.
“I’m really proud of our freshmen flyers,” Schwartz said. “We’ve thrown so much at them and they’ve been doing so well. Not only are they new to cheer, but they’re new to competitive cheer, which is a whole different ball game than just cheering for games. I think they’ve finally adjusted to performing in front of a crowd and wanting to put their best out there.”
The Dalles is off this weekend and heads to the Salem Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Sugg-Wallace plans to improve the team’s stunt difficulty as well as a few other skills in hopes of trying to max out their state finals scoresheet.
“I believe we worked hard on the mat last weekend, but we didn’t reach our full potential,” Kortge said. “We learned that we have to fight for everything we have. We worked and worked to get on the floor, prepared for anything. I do think that we can do better than last year just because of all the hard work put in from everyone on the team. What does need to happen though is believing in ourselves that we can do this routine and possibly win.”