SHS cheer team top of 4A at OCCA Cheer Championships

The SHS cheer team with their trophy from the OCCA Cheer Championships on Feb. 19. Front row, from left: Ava Coggins (junior), Parker Sydow (sophomore), Ashlyn Hart (freshman), middle row: Alexia Clark (senior), Rosa Velasco-Mendez (sophomore), Captain Brooke Olson (senior), Co-Captain Ally Contreras (sophomore), back row: Dante Galli (senior), Co-Captain Haylee Cole (senior), Captain Gillian Norton (junior), Claire Lindell (freshman), and Darcy Edman (freshman). (Courtesy photo)

‘Their final performance was the best they have ever done’

Feb. 25, 2022 — The Siuslaw High School cheer team traveled to the state capital on Feb. 19 for the Oregon Cheerleading Coaches Association (OCCA) Cheer Championships. The event featured high school cheer teams, from all divisions, for all over the state of Oregon.

The previous weekend, the team competed at the OSAA State Championships in Oregon City. The competition did not go as the squad had hoped, as the team was forced to prepare for the event shorthanded because of COVID concerns.

However, for the OCCA Cheer Championships, the team was ready. They had a full week of practice with a full team and hopes were high as the team headed up I-5 to the Salem Pavilion.

As is often the case when Siuslaw’s teams make the long bus trips from Florence to competitions all over Oregon, the journey doesn’t always go as planned. The calm and consistent leadership of Viking coach Teri Straley was required before the event to refocus and prepare her team for the task at hand.

“It was a rush once we got there,” said Straley. “We had to make a stop once in Salem for the bathroom and ended up arriving at the Pavilion 10 or 15 minutes before we needed to check in for warmups. Once we got there, those that needed to change did, make up was touched up and hair was done. We made it to warmups on time and practiced what needed to be done. I had to make sure the team took some deep breaths before they went on.”

Once their performance began, it was obvious that the rush to arrive had not affected their ability to execute the task at hand.

The team was exceptional.

Siuslaw’s scores were: Building: 21.8, Tumbling/Jumps: 19.8 and overall: 25, final score - 69.8. That final score was an amazing 20.8 points higher than the score SHS got at state the weekend previous.

“This team took everything that happened at state and worked their butts off all week on making sure this routine was the best it could be,” said Straley. “We were so surprised to see that we had improved so much with our scores and managed to score so much higher.”

Their overall score of 69.8 put Siuslaw in 4th place in the entire Varsity Coed Division and first among teams from 4A.

That fourth-place finish put the Viks ahead of both Philomath and Marshfield, two rivals who had beat the Vikings last weekend in Oregon City.

Straley could not have been more pleased by her team’s execution.

“They performed amazingly,” said Straley. “I think that their final performance was the best they have ever done as a whole team. I was so proud of them that no words could describe it.”

The squad’s emotions were high immediately after their turn, not only because of the extreme sense of joy and relief the Vikings felt after successfully and skillfully executing the kicks, jumps and stunts they’ve worked to perfect for so many months — but also because this final event of the year was somewhat bittersweet. This was true for the whole team, but especially for the four seniors, Alexia Clark, Haylee Cole, Dante Galli and Brooke Olson.

“There were tears and hugs as soon we all made it behind the curtain. I had so many cheerleaders hugging me with tears in their eyes,” said Straley. “I was so proud.”

One of those in their final year, Olson, summed up her feelings after her final competition as a high school cheerleader.

“I'm so proud of all my girls and Dante for sticking through it,” she said. “I love every single one of them. This team will always have a place in my heart and I'm thankful for this year because it was my last.”

Olson was one of the squad’s captains and, according to Straley, a student athlete the coach won’t soon forget.

“I'm so proud of her and everything she has done as a three-year captain,” Straley said. “She has been a huge rock for me through these three years of coaching. My first year was really rough, and she was there for me every step of the way. She would always know when I was stressed or frustrated and would make sure everything was going smoothly. I can't wait to see what she does next.”

It appears the relationship was symbiotic, as Olson expressed a huge appreciation for her coach and the role she was asked to take on the team.

“I'm glad I got to take more action and teach the new cheerleaders,” Olson said. “I'd like to thank my coaches, especially Coach Straley, because as a captain she’s always been on my side. Thanks to cheerleading I've also made really good friendships not only with my cheer teammates but with athletes from other sports, especially volleyball."

All signs say the Siuslaw cheerleading program is on a great trajectory, especially with the precedent set by the 2021-22 squad at the end of their season. Coach Straley and her cheerleaders agree.

“The whole team was so happy to end their season on such a high note,” said Straley. “They have set the bar for next year's competition team.”