We’re used to seeing the “Big Blue Machine” dominating on the football field, but it’s been three long years since the westside even smelled a gridiron championship. That of course was made possible thanks to the great efforts of Kaua’i High School, who have seemed to switch roles with the Menehune in the KIF foot-ball world. About a week ago, something special happened for the blue and white school, but it had nothing to do with helmets and balls. Instead, the Menehune cheer squad delivered a big blow to the Red Raider cheerleaders, who won the past three KIF titles and a national championship in the process.
Oh, how things can change in just a year.
For first-year Waimea cheer coach Roxanne Cardejon, it wasn’t quite a surprise to her as it was to her girls.
First off, this is her first year on the island and she really doesn’t know the history of the sport.
This might’ve helped the Menehune squad out a lot, just because she came in knowing that her team had just as good a shot to win the championship as any of the three schools.
However, what I thought gave the Menehune the edge this year was the fact that Cardejon is a seasoned veteran in the sport.
Not only was she the head coach for the Kalaheo High School cheer squad, but she was also a former cheerleader herself. Moreover, she was a collegiate performer, while studying at BYU-Hawai’i.
At the La’ie school, Cardejon also dabbed in other athletic endeavors like tennis, softball, and volleyball.
So she’s tough as a Samoan.
“I love my girls and I have great pride in this school (Waimea). If anyone walks by my girls and says something bad, I’ll definitely get in their face to tell ’em that if they have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything,” Cardejon said.
The Waimea cheer squad also got a chance to see other teams from around the state at the Mililani Invitational earlier this season. Cardejon made sure to plan a trip off-island to get that valuable experience that evaded the Menehune in years past.
“It’s important to compete with other schools that are better. You get better and you learn that there’s more out there,” Cardejon said.
With only four seniors and a host of underclassmen on the squad, the Menehune cheer program, under the direction of Cardejon should be strong contenders for years to come.
When she moved to Kaua’i last year with her husband, Cardejon admitted it was hard at first because she wasn’t a Menehune alumnus.
However, she contends that she now bleeds blue and that she is as passionate as anyone about the Westside school.
When longtime Waimea coach Bobby Kamakele asked her to apply for the cheer position, she knew that she had the tools to take the Menehune to the top, but she mentioned that it was a tough road that turned into a dream opportunity.
“My girls are a special bunch. They have embraced us and believed in our plan. I’m so happy for them,” Cardejon said.
But for Waimea, the season isn’t over just yet.
The 2006 HHSAA/Zippy’s Restaurants State Cheerleading Championships are just a week away and the newly crowned KIF champions aren’t satisfied with just the island title.
“We’ve got to step it up a notch. It’s an entirely different type of atmosphere up there,” Cardejon said.
And she should know, because she’s been there before, but this time, she’ll try to bring back the hardware for her “new” school — The Waimea Menehune!
- Duane Shimogawa Jr., sports editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or firstname.lastname@example.org.