West Linn cheer readies for nationals, big fundraiser on Feb. 1
The West Linn cheer team has long been one of Oregon's best.
The Lions have finished sixth or higher in the Oregon School Activities Association Cheerleading State Championships for each of the past eight years, including a third-place effort back in 2015. They also took seventh at USA Nationals a year ago.
Now, the rest of the country is going to get a look at the talented Lions.
The West Linn High School cheer team will perform for the first time in the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship on Friday, Feb. 7, in Orlando, Florida.
Needless to say, the Lions — who will travel with 28 athletes, three coaches and one vice principal — are excited about what lies ahead.
"I am looking forward to performing with my team in a fun and competitive environment after working hard and coming so far this season," said West Linn senior captain Hallie Esau.
"What I am most excited about for UCA Nationals would be traveling, not just as a team, but as a family and having the opportunity to learn and inspire other teams," said senior Rose Luna.
"It's huge for us to get to see this caliber of competition and see all the East Coast teams," said West Linn cheer coach Shannon Maloney. "It's going to be great to see that caliber of athletes."
That said, participating at UCA Nationals doesn't come cheap. To help defray the cost, West Linn will host the Welcome to the Jungle Lion Cheer Challenge at West Linn High School on Feb. 1, an open competition sanctioned by the OSAA that will feature 30 high school cheer teams and another 40 middle school cheer teams.
The event will raise money for the West Linn cheer team through registration and entry fees; the doors open at 8 a.m. Feb 1, competition begins at 9 a.m. and continues until the day's awards ceremony at approximately 6 p.m. The youth teams compete in the morning, while the high school teams take center stage beginning at 1 p.m.
Entry costs $7 per person with children ages 5 and younger admitted free. West Linn will also raise money through concessions at the event, including Dutch Bros Coffee, Bellagios Pizza, Jamba Juice and others.
"It's a huge fundraiser and just a fun day," Maloney said, noting that she hopes to reduce costs for her athletes by $300 per family and also help defray the cost of the team's twice-weekly tumbling practices.
The Lions will also participate in an upcoming fundraiser at Lil' Cooperstown Bar & Grill in Oregon City — they'll bus tables in exchange for a portion of the proceeds — at a date yet to be determined. Lil' Cooperstown is located at 19352 Molalla Ave.
While West Linn won't compete at the Welcome to the Jungle event, the Lions will give an exhibition performance of their traditional routine, the same routine they'll perform at the 2020 state meet.
Looking ahead to the UCA Nationals, the Lions are thrilled about their first-ever appearance at the event. West Linn won a bid to the UCA Nationals by scoring 80 points or more at the Northwest Regional, held in Maple Valley, Washington, back on Nov. 3.
"This is our first time. We've never qualified for UCA Nationals before," Maloney said.
She explained that the Lions usually compete in the USA Nationals at Disneyland — including each of the past three years — but when the date of this year's USA Nationals conflicted with the OSAA state meet, West Linn set its sights on qualifying for the UCA Nationals.
"We decided to go to Maple Valley and it worked out," Maloney said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
While the USA Nationals usually include West Coast teams and teams from Arizona, the UCA Nationals will feature many East Coast teams and teams from Texas.
"Those East Schools have a lot of tradition," Maloney said. "You hear about how many of those kids were 'born cheerleading.' It's great that we'll be able see those teams compete."
Besides getting to see and compete against the East Coast teams, Maloney and the Lions are excited to show off their full repertoire at the UCA Nationals; all teams at that event will compete in four different categories.
"I'm looking forward to showcasing a routine that my team has been practicing for all season," said senior Cassidy Juster. "I'm also excited to spend time with my teammates and coaches for the last time of my high school cheerleading career."
"It's such a great way to get your community material out there, the stuff you do at football games and every day at school," Maloney said, noting that the Lions will also perform their Game Day routine in Orlando. "It balances out our year. We're not just a competition team so we also get to show off the things we do at football games."
This year's team, headed by its quartet of senior leaders — Esau, Juster, Luna and Harmony Sutton — has already placed first at the Cougar Cheer Challenge in December, won the Pacer Invitational at Lakeridge on Jan. 18 and finished third at the Laker Rumble on Jan. 11.
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