As the official keepers of team spirit, the Burroughs High School cheerleaders take their job as leaders of the stands seriously. It is paramount to the 28 cheerleaders who make up the varsity (14) and junior varsity (14) cheer teams.
When the cheerleaders attended the Varsity USA summer camp last year in Santa Barbara, nine of them were invited to appear on the All American team out of 400 cheerleaders from across California who also attended. Girls are hand-selected for the honors by a group of professional sports cheerleaders who serve as instructors at the camp.
“This is a really big number. There are usually only three that are chosen each year,” said Stacey Crow, who is an elementary school teacher by day before stepping into her role as director of the BHS cheerleading program at night and on weekends .
The nine selected cheerleaders were invited to travel abroad to perform in the London New Year’s Parade held on 1 January. These All American girls included Lenae Lugo, Olivia Haas, Mackenzy Crow, Mika Hildreth, Mindy Bravo, Araina Jones, Samara Rivas, Julissa Martinez and Makynna Freund.
“We got together and then jumped and cheered and they (the professional cheerleaders) picked who they wanted to be on the U.S. team,” said Haas, 18, a senior who has been cheering for four years. She is known as the girls’ dancer.
But when Lady Luck shone down on them on the last day of summer camp, the BHS cheerleaders also won the Unity Award and were invited to travel to Florida and perform in the pregame for the 77th annual Cheese-It Citrus Bowl played on January 2 in Orlando.
“I made so many memories and new friends at Universal and the Citrus Bowl! The funnest part was seeing a giant dancing Cheeze-It rise from the ground, haha,” said Samantha Correa, 16, 10th grade.
Cate Quackenbush, 15, 10th grade also performed at the Citrus Bowl.
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience performing in front of thousands of people at the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl. It was an experience for many and it was amazing to be able to experience it with my best friends,” said Quackenbush. .
Although the team as a whole was invited to attend the Citrus Bowl, the All American girls had to choose between going to London or to Florida since both events were held during the same period.
As you could imagine, the All American cheerleaders chose to travel to London to participate in what is called The World’s Greatest Parade. The parade is attended by an estimated 50,000 spectators each year, with an additional 500,000 viewers tuning in from home.
Before they could go anywhere, all the cheerleaders had to finance their own trips to London or Florida by hosting fundraisers, working side jobs, and holding bake sales. That’s a whole lot of cupcakes since each girl raised between $3,000 and $4,000.
When they arrived in London, the cheerleaders found between 400 and 500 other All American cheerleaders from across the United States who had also been selected to participate while at other cheerleading camps.
A senior and also chosen to travel to London as an All-American cheerleader, Lugo, 17, has been cheering for the past 12 years, starting at the early age of 5. Her secret weapon? The rear handspring.
From the beginning until she entered high school, Lugo performed in competitive cheer.
“It’s a little different than cheer on the sidelines. When I started high school, I chose to do high school cheer because I wanted to be more involved in my school…I fell in love with it,” Lugo said.
So what does it take to be an All American cheerleader?
“You have to have a lot of motivation. You should be very consistent, even outside of practice, you should practice on your own time to stay consistent,” said Chaco, 17, a senior. Chaco said she loves, loves, loves doing cheer, which she has the ability to learn pretty quickly.
Haas agreed with her fellow cheerleader.
“It’s almost a year-round sport. We cheer for both football and basketball,” Haas said.
Lugo, who has been a cheerleader for most of her life, said she does not plan to continue with the sport after she graduates, although she was invited by Varsity USA to act as a cheer instructor at future camps.
Said Crow, “As a member of the Varsity USA team, she (Lugo) would go on these trips as a staff member, and she would go to camps for other high school cheerleaders.”
As for the invitation to join the Varsity USA staff, Lugo said, “I think it’s a great opportunity and a great form of recognition.”
Lugo, Haas and Chaco all agree they experience a bit of stage fright, if you will, before getting up to cheer in front of hundreds of people on game nights.
Said Chaco, “But there’s also a release after… like, oh! It was fun. An adrenaline rush.”
As guardians of school spirit, each event presents a challenge for the cheerleaders to drum up the competitive nature of the crowd and get them cheering along.
Said Haas: “At the basketball games, people told us how we make a big difference. When we came back from London, there was a game on the same day, so none of us could cheer. They said how it was so different when we’re there because the crowd was so quiet.”
During the week they were in London, the cheerleaders said they had the opportunity to tour some really cool places such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Windsor Castle.
“I loved traveling to London because it gave me so many new experiences. I hope to travel to many more countries in the future because I was so amazed by the different societies and cultures,” said Mackenzy Crow, 15, 10th grade .
Melinda Bravo, 16, 11th grade, shared in the experience.
“Being able to go to London with my teammates and cheer on the New Years Parade was so much fun and one of the most amazing experiences and opportunities I’ve ever had. One of my favorite parts was being able to do tours of the Tower Of London and Windsor Castle with my mom, and being able to put our phones down and enjoy each other and the historical sites we got to see,” Bravo said.
All the girls agreed that the London adventure was an experience they would never forget.
“London was an amazing and incredible experience for my team and me. To see my team so happy and cheering through the streets of such a historic city was unforgettable,” said Mika Hildreth, 16, 11th grade.
As the head coach of the varsity team, Crow said she has been doing what comes naturally since the start of the 2022 school year. She was also a cheerleader herself while attending Burroughs High School, graduating in 2002.
“It’s been fun. Really, a blast. But it’s been a lot more work than I expected,” laughed Crow.
Crow said she plans to continue serving as a cheer coach next year and looks forward to sharing more memorable experiences with the cheerleaders that she has grown to know and love.
Upcoming events. Johns Hopkins fields 24 varsity teams, 22 of which compete at the NCAA Division III level.
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|John Burroughs High School|
|Athletics meet||CIF Southern Section Pacific League|
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