Pierce College’s year-old Elite Cheer Team cartwheeled into first place at the JAMfest National Series, a two-day cheer and dance competition in Long Beach, Calif., just over a week ago.
The team’s victory came as a surprise to cheerleader Roshanda DuQuesnay, who said the team struggled with a lack of execution the competition’s first day.
“I was shocked,” DuQuesnay said. “It was completely unexpected. The first day was really hard, but the fact that we were able to pull through it and get the win is amazing.”
The 15-member cheer competition team was first formed in the spring of 2012 by coach Jenny Ghiglia.
Ghiglia said she started the team because she wanted to show that cheer is around to support all the sports and give cheerleaders at Pierce a chance to compete.
“I wanted to do this as a way to give the kids who work hard the chance to compete,” Ghiglia said. “I also wanted to do this to get the name of Pierce out to maybe recruit kids to the program and also help the teams around Pierce.”
Both parts of Pierce’s cheer program, the competition and the team that cheers at sports events, had to go through cutbacks in order to maintain their program.
For instance, in the summer of 2011, the cheer teams went from being a part of the athletics department—which funds Pierce’s sports teams—to being part of physical education department.
When the program was on the verge of being cut two years ago, Shilo Nelson, physical education department chair, fought to keep the program.
“Nelson came up huge for us,” said Ghiglia, who has been coaching at Pierce for 12 years. “Without his help and without his support, we would not exist.”
Although the cheer team was able to keep their program, the amount of time they get for instruction has been cut back. Up until the spring 2012 semester, the cheer team had six hours of instruction during fall for football games and three hours for spring.
“It’s really hard not being able to be given the time we need,” Ghiglia said. “There is so much chemistry involved with having a cheer program. It takes time and a lot of effort to make sure everyone is on cue. . . By the time football season begins, we are unprepared.”
The cheerleading team has been getting help from outside sources, such as the Simi Valley Cheer Force, to get necessary equipment like spring mats.
In addition, Marwin Lopez and Zack Harris of the Simi Valley Cheer Force have been providing dance instruction and choreography to help the Brahmas succeed in competition.
“Simi Valley Cheer Force has been huge,” Ghiglia said.
The Brahmas’ cheer squad placed second in a competition in Las Vegas, Nev. before they coming in first at JAMfest, their third competition in less than a year.
The Brahmas’ first tournament win came after they bounced back from opening the tournament on shaky ground, but squad member Adrienne Willis said Ghiglia gave the team advice that helped them seize victory on the competition’s second day.
“She told us that we could hit stunts,” Willis said. “We just had to work hard and shake off the first day jitters.”
Following the victory, the competition team is preparing for next month’s JAMfest Nationals Series in Las Vegas, where the team placed second a year ago.
Cheerleader Andrea Henderson says there is still more to do before they head out in April.
“We’re going to have to step it up. We’re going to have to increase the difficulty on our stunts and practice harder. If we do that, we can win first place,” Henderson said.