Waimea wins 4 in a row

With its superior tumbling skills, the Waimea High School cheerleading squad won its fourth consecutive Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation championship yesterday at host Kaua‘i High School.

The Menehune, under the coaching of Roxanne Cardejon, posted a whopping 293.5 score, trumping its fellow KIF counterparts by more than 73 points. Kaua‘i’s Lady Red Raiders finished in second with a score of 220 and Kapa‘a rounded out the league at 218.5.

Kaua‘i, a medium all girls squad, went up first. The Raiders had a solid back handspring sequence to start with, but what gave them trouble was the lifts. On their first attempt, the Raiders suffered a deduction when their left side base dropped their flyer. Their second, a lift of Dawn Vess, incorporated a turn that was a much-needed success for them. However, they did suffer one more drop before their portion concluded.

To Kaua‘i co-coach Brandi Young, the girls performed their best.

“We set out with a goal and it was a really good experience for the girls and for the coaches,” said second-year coach Young.

Waimea, the reigning co-ed squad then took the mat and opened with a basket toss and kick switch.

The Menehune routine was much more complicated than any other they’ve performed before — half of it consisted of tumbling — and Cardejon said the squad knew it would be tough to execute. Incorporating such tumbling sequences and lifts was gamble because it opens the door, if they were to fail, for costly deductions.

But it was a risk Cardejon and the squad were willing to take and it paid off in the end. Waimea was in sync for the dance portion and on top of their technical points.

“We make every KIF as if we were competing at states. We wanted to be up to par with those we’d be competing against at the state level,” Cardejon. “Every two-hour practice was worth every second.”

Waimea senior Kristen Garma said she was excited to be a part of another championship squad.

“We just knew we had to do (our routine) flawlessly,” Garma said before dashing off for a team photo.

Quite possibly Kapa‘a High School’s squad’s downfall was just not being strong enough when it came to the difficulty with lifts. All were a little shaky, but they got through without a drop.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Kapa‘a coach Kananaikahahu Kuhaulua. “They left it all out there on the mat.”

To the Warriors’ credit, they were much improved from previous competitions. Because Waimea has had such a strong squad, Kuhaulua said Kapa‘a needed to step it up and add more difficulty.

“It’s because of them we added more tumbling to our routine. That was what we were missing. We beefed up our stunts because of them,” she said.

Waimea also earned six of the 10 cheering all-star spots: Nelson Acosta, Casey Owen, Caitlyn Gaspar, Bronte Acosta, Aleina Emayo and Dante Martin. Kaua‘i earned three spots: Dawn Vess, Tashana Valmoja and Tyra Lum. Mark Bonilla was the lone Kapa‘a cheerleader on the all-star squad.

Yesterday’s event also included a first-time jump-off contest with the spectators as judges. Two representatives from each high school, and the cheerleading guest squads from Hanapepe and Koloa, where given the toe touch jump to execute, while the second was a jump of choice.

Waimea’s Owen won the individual high school jump off, getting height on her toe touch and again with on her second — a toe-touch to around-the-world.

With the championship win, Waimea moves on to the Zippy’s/Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association State Cheerleading Championship on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Unlike the other fall sports, cheerleading is not split into Divisions I and II, but instead a large and medium division. Waimea will compete in the medium division where they finished in 11th place last year.

• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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