Local cheerleading team wins big in Disneyland | TheUnion.com

Local cheerleading team wins big in Disneyland

When Marsha Quinonez, 43, began coaching the Bear River Junior Bruins cheerleading team last year, she faced daunting challenges.

Quinonez had never coached a cheerleading team before. The girls on the team were mostly between 6 and 8 years old. Two-thirds of the team had never cheered before. No one had ever been to a cheerleading competition.

But on March 3, Quinonez’ Bear River Junior Bruins team won the grand champion title in the United Spirit Association National Championship, a cheerleading contest in Disneyland, competing against 23 teams.

The nine-member team also won the first prize in the Pee Wee Open Song/Pom division – a contest between northern and southern California.

“This was a complete team effort,” Quinonez said. “It took the parents, the girls and the coaches to make this happen. Their dedication and loyalty to the program and to themselves were outstanding.”

Starting last November, the team practiced eight to 10 hours a week, Quinonez said. Two Bear River High juniors, Angela Willis and Raeleen Pieratt, also coached the girls.

“Making up the routine (for children) is difficult because you can’t make it too hard, and you can’t make it too easy,” Willis, 17, said. “You have to make it at their level.

“While teaching the girls, sometimes it’s hard to keep their attention for long periods of time and hard to keep them motivated throughout the season,” Willis said.

To attend the competition in Disneyland, the team had to win the first position at the United Spirit Association regional competition in Gilroy in October.

The team also performed at the Jamz cheerleading competition in Sacramento in November. That qualified them for another national level contest in Las Vegas. But the team chose to attend the contest in Disneyland instead.

Changing attitudes

Over the decades, the public perception of cheerleading has changed. What was once considered a sideline activity – girls cheering on the real players – is now regarded a full-fledged sport, Quinonez said.

“Cheerleading has been underestimated for years,” Quinonez said. “But it’s not just a bunch of girls jumping around. It takes hours of conditioning. It involves gymnastics, tumbling, co-ordination and dancing. It’s a sport.”

“We are just so proud of these girls and how far they’ve come,” Willis said. “Coming from a small town like Grass Valley and going to Disneyland and competing with 23 teams and winning is just fantastic.”


To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

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