Seaside High School’s cheerleading squad is looking forward to another year of supporting the various athletic teams and clubs on campus, in addition to resuming their participation in the competitive side of the sport.

“We’re big advocates of making sure all our activities feel supported,” said Kimm Mount, who started as assistant coach in 2012 before taking over as head coach the following year.

Cheerleading — which is considered an Oregon School Activities Association certified activity because of the limited number of contests entailed – picked up in spring, when interested students started attending a variety of boot camps and exercises to prepare for the season.

Requiring the students to sign up and commit to practicing in the late spring and summer — at which time they also purchase a uniform — gives them “incentive, if they really want to do it, to work hard,” Mount said.

Tryouts were held in August and 14 students achieved the baseline score to earn a spot on the squad. The group is split into two levels: the red level, for intermediate and advanced cheerleaders, and the white level, for beginners who aren’t quite ready to perform or compete. Both levels practice together, however, and students can advance to the red level during the school year.

There is no set team captain, but Mount selects “game day captains” before each game or performance. Those cheerleaders assume responsibility for calling cheers during the routines.

“I wanted to find a way to give some responsibility without it being overwhelming,” Mount said, adding it also permits all the team members to fill the role of captain at some point during the year.

Putting skills to the test

The biggest evolution of Seaside’s cheer program took place in 2016, when it transformed from a club to an OSAA activity, allowing the group to compete. The activity also became more rigorous at that time, with Seaside’s squad striving to “accomplish the same things bigger schools accomplish,” Mount said. Their routines now include dancing, tumbling, stunting and jumping.

The team competed in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, but had to forgo competing last year because of numerous injuries, Mount said.

“We’re ready to go this year,” she added.

In Oregon, cheer teams must compete in two sanctioned regional tournaments to be eligible for the state championship. The regional competitions will be held over two weekends in January and the state tournament in February. Mount anticipates going to competition with a team of nine cheerleaders.

Being able to compete adds a whole new level of purpose and motivation for the team.

“The kids want to prove to their school and their community that they’re serious athletes,” Mount said. “It’s important to have the opportunity to provide that for them.”

Senior Caitlin Hillman, who has cheered since her freshman year, agreed, adding, “Our real sport is competitive cheer.”

‘Under the lights’

Although performing well during competition is an important goal for Seaside’s cheer squad, they also maintain their original purpose of being crowd-leaders during football games. They also cheer during a majority of the school’s home basketball games, some school assemblies, and other events.

The cheer team, Mount said, “is an important part of every school’s and every community’s dynamics.”

Because Seaside’s student body is relatively small, Hillman, who also serves as the Associated Student Body communications director, said she is friends with many of the students who play on teams or participate in clubs. That friendship makes it especially enjoyable to support them as they do something they love.

She expects this year will be bittersweet, as she wraps up both high school and cheerleading.

“Nothing compares to being out on the field under the lights,” she said. “That’s been the highlight of my high school

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