The Lodi High School Meehleis Gym was literally vibrating with the collective energy of ten combined football teams and cheerleading squads during the 2012 DYSA Nor Cal Cheer Competition on Saturday.
Each team shouted a different chant, but seemed to match one another with the same thundering beat. Stomping. Clapping. Screaming. Waving flags and homemade posters.
It’s no wonder. There was plenty to be excited about.
After the cheerleaders performed at halftime for every football game of the season and cheered their boys on to countless touchdowns, it was time for the football players to return the favor.
The junior varsity squad of the Brentwood Pirates took to the blue competition mat, standing in formation with their ankles delicately poised.
A blaring mash-up track of Katy Perry and One Direction songs blasted out of the speakers, and the girls burst into action.
Three furious minutes of hip shaking, sharp hand motions and a brisk series of roundoffs, the girls were grinning for the judges as they caught their breath.
Next up, the Lodi Jr. Flames junior varsity cheer squad took over the mat, charming the judges by blowing a few kisses after some strong tumbling.
The judging panel looks for spirit, enthusiasm, and showmanship just as much as a skillful cartwheel or basket toss.
Outside, the Galt Warriors J.V. squad regrouped after their routine.
Coach Mariano Campo congratulated them on getting through the routine, and pepped up the girls who were worried they hadn’t done well enough.
“I’m so proud of them. And they should feel very proud of themselves,” said Campo. “It takes stamina and discipline to do what they do. “
The Warriors and some other teams don’t hold tryouts. Every girl who wants to cheer can join up. The trick for the coaches is finding the different skills in each girl to highlight in a routine.
“Our job is to see what they have to offer, whether it’s tumbling or volume or crisp movements.,” he said.
“We put them all together,” said assistant coach Sheari Mansfield.
Teams practice for hours each week, sometimes daily, to get their routines under control.
The five girls on the Lodi Colts J.V. team were more than ready to own the stage, despite having the smallest team at the competition.
“I was just excited to perform,” said Victoria Sanchez, 12. Her cousin Tamara Sanchez, 11, is also her teammate. The two have been cheering together for seven years.
Their coaches say the whole team gets along, and swore a pinky promise to do their best in the competition.
“Everything is going through my mind when I watch them,” said Adrea Schmidli. “We want to make sure they get it done, and that they don’t drop anyone.”
One after the other, teams of pre-teen girls with high ponytails and shining hairbows yelled, jumped and danced their hearts out on the blue mat.
Finally, the judges tallied their scores for the junior varsity division.
Third place went to the Escalon Outlaws. The second place trophy was handed to the Tokay Jr. Tigers. And the Galt Jr. Warriors took home first place.
For these girls, it was time for a pat on the back and a treat from the food vendors outside the gym.
But for varsity, the day was just beginning as the older girls stretched and warmed up in the corridor. With determined faces, the teenaged cheerleaders faced down the biggest competition of the year.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.