In the Spotlight: Oak Ridge HS Cheer!

In the Spotlight this week is one of the most taken for granted programs  at Oak Ridge High School…..The Cheer program. People just assume the cheerleaders meet once in a while and throw together a few cheers and viola, see you at the football game.

Well, unbeknownst to most, the Cheer program involves tons of hard work  and time. They have their own class period and also meet after school  just like all athletic programs. Cheerleading is as much of a sport as  football and involves just as much dedication by its athletes.Yes, I said  athletes! Anyone who works as hard as they do keeping themselves in top  mental and physical condition year round is an athlete. It doesn’t start  and stop at school either. Like baseball, the majority of the athletes on  any high school Cheer squad are in Select organizations honing their  skills, traveling to competitions nationwide.

Here to tell us all about the Oak Ridge High School Cheer squad is Coach Sarah Parker:

Sarah, you just took over the program this year. What is your educational background as well as Cheer background?
I went to Coldspring High School and then Sam Houston State. I have been involved with cheerleading for almost 20 years now to include cheering, coaching and choreography. I cheered at Coldspring High School and then private coached for a while until I started working with school cheer.

How many girls cheer at ORHS?
We have 59 members in our program this year, of which two are boys (mascot Jeremy Dryer and JV cheerleader Robert Guillory).

Are there tryouts? What constitutes an athlete making the squad as opposed to not making it?
We have tryouts every March.  There are many requirements for making one of our teams. One mandatory requirement for varsity is tumbling.  Everyone is graded on the same scale- 70% judges from outside of school, 30% coaches. Discipline plays a part and previous year as cheerleader as well.

Who helps you? What are their backgrounds?
I have two other coaches: Coach Moeck-Altom… she was a gymnast for many years and attended Brookwood High School and then Centenary College in Louisiana. Coach Currie was a cheerleader at Oak Ridge High School and is an Aggie girl.

What does the Cheer program do for the community?
We try to participate in several community service projects  throughout the year. Our three biggest ones are the Food Bank, the women’s shelter, and Christmas gifts to a needy family.

How do you go about the selection of cheer captains?
It depends on the year. The freshmen squad does not have captains because they are just learning the ways of our program. On JV this year we have a captain and two co-captains. On varsity, we have four: three senior cheerleaders and our mascot.  Captains are usually seniors on varsity but that doesn’t mean a junior or sophomore will never get it.  We base our  captains off of leadership skills and the overall cheerleader effect. We usually wait until after we return from our summer camp in order to see who stepped up to the plate and who cracked under pressure. We do allow the other team members to vote to get a feel for who the team thinks makes a good leader, but the ultimate decision is the coach’s.

What kind of training does Cheer do?
We train every time we have cheer class.  Before school starts we  practice long hours to work on cheers, chants, stunts, tumbling, and jumps in  order to prepare ourselves for the entire football season.  Every one of our  members attends a tumbling class every Wednesday at Woodlands Elite.  We have a  competition team that represents ORHS and we practice up to three times a  week.  Our practices vary on what skill we are working on for that week or  upcoming game.  It’s pretty intense as far as a workout goes.

When do you guys meet? Is it a class period just like all other sports?
We have 2nd period cheer class at school, and meet either here or Woodlands Elite after school for our practices.  Sometimes, we just do fun things  for team bonding at different locations around the community.

What kind of local, state and national competitions will you go to?
This year we are determined to compete at the National Level.  We first have to compete in November at the UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) Regionals competition. When we receive our bid, we then register for the National competition in Florida (Disney) for February. Our goal this year is to make it past the national finals which would be a first for ORHS.

We will also compete in Houston this December for Cheer Power in order to better prepare for our Nationals trip. ORHS has been to some small, private competitions and have been very successful. However, our aim is to be successful in the NCA (National Cheerleaders Association) and UCA competitions which are the biggest cheer organizations in the nation. We will be competing against up to 15 teams at Regionals and up to 45 teams at Nationals.

What select cheer organization is your impromptu feeder program?
We do have several girls who are also on squads at local gyms.  Our biggest feeder for talent comes from Woodlands Elite.  They have been one of our biggest contributors and supporters for our cheer program.

So there you have it. Cheer isn’t just a bunch of people who put on uniforms and go to football games. Cheer is every bit of a sport as football, baseball, etc… Scholarships can be earned as well.

This is an awesome group that is leading the Oak Ridge resurgence. The sky’s the limit for ORHS and our cheerleaders are leading the way.

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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