Chargers are state's best - and now nation's best - in cheer
Mar 01, 2018 11:07AM
● By Catherine Garrett
The Corner Canyon High varsity and junior varsity teams pose after winning the state cheerleading titles Jan. 26 at Salt Lake Community College. (Photo courtesy of Whitney Lunt)
Corner Canyon High cheerleading coach Whitney Lunt said the goal for her team heading into the National High School Cheerleading Championships was “just to hit our routines and make finals, but obviously we would be ecstatic about anything beyond that.” The Chargers topped 67 teams to win the national title in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 11.
“The whole thing is really a dream,” said Lunt, who is in her fifth year with the program. “Prior to this year, our varsity team had never even made finals. To not only make finals, but win a national championship was absolutely unreal, and a complete fairy tale.”
CCHS team captain Ryleigh Bloechel said when it came down to the top three teams, they were excited to simply place that high.
“After they announced the third-place team, I almost started to cry because I thought we got second place,” Bloechel said. “In that moment when it came down to announcing the top team, all I was thinking about is how much I loved these girls. Everyone on this team has so much talent and uses it to the max every practice and performance. All of our blood, sweat and tears went into this performance month after month and it really did pay off.”
Corner Canyon’s squad performed a “perfect routine,” according to Lunt, that scored the highest among their preliminary group of 23 teams and advanced them straight to the finals, skipping the semifinal round. In the finals, Corner Canyon performed second to last.
The girls were relaxed, but focused, and when they hit the floor they were electric,” Lunt said. “They hit perfect again and their cheer had the whole crowd yelling with them. It was incredible. No Utah team has won a UCA National Championship since the 1980s. We are over the moon!”
“We not only beat the four-year streak of the California champions,” Bloechel said, “but we hit a perfect routine and had no regrets on the floor. It was an awesome experience.”
The junior varsity squad, competing against 16 other teams, made the finals and finished eighth. “These girls were amazing,” Lunt said.
The event will be televised on ESPN in March.
At the 5A state competition Jan. 26, the Chargers laid claim to the best cheer squad in the state for the second time in the five-year history of Corner Canyon High School. The varsity team placed first while the junior varsity team also won the title in their division at competition at Salt Lake Community College.
“I always hate to get my hopes up going into big competitions, but these girls 100 percent deserved their wins,” Lunt said. “They are incredibly talented and they work harder than anyone I know. We knew that we had superior skills going in, especially with stunts and tumbling, but the girls still had to execute all of their skills well and they did. They were absolutely incredible.”
Lunt said the mindset for her team entering the state competition was executing their routines cleanly. “We try not to focus on winning or placement, because ultimately we can’t control the judges and what they like or dislike,” she said. “All that we can control is what we put on the mat and the performance that we give, so our focus is always to go out and hit a clean routine, with as few mistakes as possible.”
At the state meet, the junior varsity team competed first so the varsity team was warming up as the JV awards were announced and they were informed of the JV squad’s title by text. “We had a little mini-party in the warm-up room because we were so excited,” Lunt said. “It also got varsity pumped up right before their routine and gave them some great positive energy going into their own performance.”
“When varsity won my heart pretty much stopped,” Lunt said. “I was so ecstatic that I actually started crying! For them to finally get the recognition that they deserve was amazing. They’ve been battling a few teams all season, and it was really nice to see them come out on top at state.”
The 2017 defending region champions had placed second at the Utah Southern Regionals due to penalties two weeks before the state competition. “State was kind of a day for redemption,” Lunt said. “We had the two weeks in between region and state to work things out and make sure that we did not have penalties on the day of state. The hard work and attention to detail definitely worked, because the girls executed beautifully at state.”
Four seniors were named to the 5A All-State team: Bloechel, Isabel Harker, Aspen Martinez and Adria Lee. This follows a season in which the varsity team was named grand champions of two competitions — the JAMZ Twin Peaks Championship and the UCA Regional — while the junior varsity team took first in each of its four showings.
Also on the Corner Canyon 2017–18 squad is Lauren Adams, Lily Baird, Lexi Beauchesne, Gracie Beerman, Ashley Belnap, Rylee Cotterell, Natalie Crampton, Leighton Davis, Sam De La Cruz, Allie Engen, Izzy Hollingsworth, Gabby Horrocks, Abbey Kapp, Kiesa Keller, Brooklyn Leggett, Derby Marshall, Aria McKnight, Kyleigh Miller Jade Nolen, Lauren Parris, Riley Pomikala, Sarah Powell, Marissa Rasmussen, Jessica Rice, Bethany Rooklidge, Julia Smith, Haylee Swenson, Kaitlin Talbot, Arielle Taylor, Kyra Thayne, Madisyn Wankier, Kenna Warburton, Lauren Washenko, Taylee Westra, Kenna Whitney and Baylee Winkel. Katie Acker is the team manager and Emily Arthur has been an honorary cheerleader.
“These girls are incredible,” Lunt said. “This year’s team has the most raw talent that we have ever had, but the biggest thing that I have noticed about them is that they just love each other. I believe that the love they have for each other directly affects their performance, because they are competing for someone other than just themselves, and it takes a lot of selfishness away. They believe in each other and they support each other, and they all genuinely want their teammates to be successful.”
Lunt has been assisted this season by Mckenzy Young, Kyler Schofield, Bria Bowthorpe and Stephanie Sampson on the coaching staff along with choreographers Cameron Larsen and Katie Bowers. Bowers and Dane Lobdell also assisted with skills work.
They also were named overall grand champions for varsity and champions for junior varsity at the Weber State Invitational Feb. 2.
A tryout meeting for the 2018–19 Corner Canyon cheer squad is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 3:30 p.m. at CCHS with tryouts being held the week of March 5–9.