Wildcat cheerleaders pose with their three trophies from the game on Oct. 19 at Chandler. They placed first in the all-girls stunting and game day routines, and placed third in their show cheer routine. (Photo by Mia Leon-Carpenter/AZPreps365)
Mia Leon-Carpenter is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Mesquite High School for AZPreps365.com
The Mesquite High School cheerleaders nearly won the competition at the October 19 Desert Kick Off showcase at Hamilton High School in Chandler.
The Lady Wildcats competed in three categories during the showcase competition: game day, girl stunt, and show cheer. The 16-girl team won first place in the game day and all girl stunts categories, taking third place ahead of Chaparral and Hamilton for their show cheering routine.
The Wildcats cheered from the sidelines and performed their fight song during the game day routine winning first place. (Photo by Mia Leon-Carpenter/AZPreps365)
“It couldn’t have been better,” said assistant coach Mia Franz. “We thought we’d be fifth for show cheer, so third with two advanced teams…they’re proud of themselves and they love each other, whatever went wrong, that’s all that matters.”
Winning was no sinecure for this team. The Lady Wildcats have overcome adversity since their tryouts in March.
From injuries to numbers, to dedication and motivation, the team has faced a revolving door of athletes. This year, fifth-year head coach Taryn Pollock decided to scrap the original big-team vision and convert it into a smaller, more elite model.
“That’s the program we designed, to get into a space where people have stepped in, stepped out, we can overcome that,” Pollock said. “In years past, while building this program, we had everyone on the floor, we needed every single person. So if someone got hurt, it was catastrophic for us.
“It’s an exciting place to be, the fact that we have alternates, and we can adapt to all the challenges.”
The coaches have cut back significantly this year with the intention of keeping their team at an elite status level, along with the motivation to give it their all. This competition combined select girls from the junior varsity and varsity squads.
There was no way to differentiate between the two squads as they performed with incredible chemistry. During all three routines, there was only one fall in the all-girls stunt.
Cami Nickeson, a captain and senior on the team, said that for the first time the team managed to remain calm and collected throughout the day.
“Usually they get very stressed and they rush everything,” Nickeson said. “But I think they really just took their time and did everything they had to do.”
Freshman Cheyenne Rush said the key to Mesquite’s success is their bond.
“We went into this, and everyone just hugged and said, ‘We’ve got this, we’re going to do it right, and I really believe that’s what makes us different,'” Rush said. “It’s all about the team here.”
The team erupts in cheers when they are announced as the first place winners in the game day category. (Photo by Mia Leon-Carpenter/AZPreps365)
The team hopes to use and apply the criticisms of the judges of this showcase competition in the future. The Lady Wildcats next take the floor at the USA Arizona regional competition on November 19 at Estrella Foothills High School.
“There’s already a whole list on my phone of what went wrong,” said Franz. “Where we are now is the perfect place. Even though there are things to criticize, skills to improve, it will be where we need to be by the time we need to be there.