Three years ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 949 into action, paving the way for competitive cheer to become a sport.
Now, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has officially recognized the sport, listing it under its sports offerings online and hosting competitions for its inaugural 2017-18 season.
Sport recognition resonated with many of the cheerleaders, most of whom have been in cheer since freshman year, middle school, and in one case, early childhood.
“To me, cheer’s always been a sport even before CIF announced it,” said Melony Morales, one of the team’s captains and a junior in the Technology & Media magnet.
“We carry 100-pound girls instead of two-pound balls,” said Morales, a cheerleader since she was 3-years-old.
Originally competing within Division II of the Los Angeles City Section, South East cheer was demoted to Division III after placing ninth in the Division II competition.
However, they were able to get back on their feet in time for Division III competitions by grinding hours of practice before the competition started. The team created their competition routine the week before and learned it mere days before going on to place 1st at regionals. “It was amazing and a lot to take in,” said Isaiah Miranda, a main base and a senior in the Business, Innovation, and Leadership small school.
According to Miranda and several others on the team, they all burst into tears after winning the Division III regional competition.
“We all started to cry, even the coach,” said Isabel Medina, a flyer and a junior in the Business, Innovation, and Leadership small school, “I had a feeling we weren’t going to place.”
Morales had her doubts as well, citing the team’s decline in quality in recent years. “[Winning] was a relief. Cheer isn’t as good as it was before,” she said.
However, the team still has more to do before they can wrap up their inaugural season. This is still just the beginning for the team as they’re preparing for another competition on May 12 which will determine their division placing for the upcoming season. Should the team succeed, they’ll receive celebratory rings and will be elevated to Division II status for their upcoming season next school year.
Looking forward to a bright future, Morales believes the team will be on the road towards Division I next year. “Maybe people will take [cheer] more seriously and recognize how hard a sport this is,” she said.