HomeSportsCheer team finishes productive season with optimism for future squads

Cheer team finishes productive season with optimism for future squads

Published Jan. 30, 2024

BY TULLAH McCOLL

Although the Carmel High School cheerleading team had five girls at their initial summer practice in July, the squad has grown to a team of 18 spirited members. The 15 cheerleaders on the competition squad jumped into the Central Coast Section cheer competition at Independence High School in San Jose on Jan. 20, where they competed with five other schools in their division and performed a two-minute routine with jumps, stunts and dancing. 

Two-year senior captain Lily Marciano and junior co-captain Maddie Waroff are feeling more confident than ever about their closely bonded and enthusiastic team. The captains say the success in cheering comes from the true passion for supporting others through leadership. 

“The ability people have to step up, take on more roles [and adjust] is something our team is really good at,” Marciano shares.

Carmel’s cheerleaders motivate the crowd at local Shoe Game in Pacific Grove in support of the Padres. (photo by AMANECER HERNANDEZ)

Leadership is a quality the two captains feel is important for every good cheerleader to have. The captains hope their guidance is helpful in leading the team to success. The underclassmen on the team have built trust within the squad and have found a sense of community at school. 

Also pleasantly impressed with the team’s openness to communication and challenges is CHS’ new coach Kassy Zaragoza, who began coaching cheer in 2013. Having cheered for two years at John H. Pitman High School in Turlock, Zaragoza grew a passion for school spirit and leadership. 

“At my high school, representing the school in a positive way was always important to me,” the coach says. 

After coaching cheer for 10- to 11-year-olds, Zaragoza moved on to a year as assistant coach at Watsonville High School and two years as head coach at Pajaro Valley High School. Now working as a front office supervisor at La Mesa School, she has re-entered the cheer world after taking a seven-year break and is ready to advance the Carmel cheer team with her own flair and coaching strategies.

Zaragoza believes that having a devoted coach has been extremely important in getting more girls to join, which had been the initial challenge at the start of the year. After the first rally of the school year, many girls showed interest in joining. Open practices and tryouts were held and a passionate team was put together. 

“They work so well together,” the coach remarks. “They truly like hanging out together, and they have a lot of fun when performing.” 

Zaragoza explains that the team just needed some guidance. By having a coach show up and be there for the team, the cheer program has been able to accomplish new stunts they would not have imagined in prior years. With new uniforms and equipment, the squad can excel in ways many of the girls have always hoped. 

Girls on the team also share that with cheer, they’ve made friends with people they previously wouldn’t have. They have now made long-lasting memories together like this year’s annual Shoe Game, hosted in Pacific Grove in November. This was the first game the girls felt a sense of belonging as a team and truly found a love for performing together. Zaragoza expressed a feeling of accomplishment after the game when she saw the smiles on the girls’ faces and witnessed the squad cheer on the Padre football team in their win over P.G.

The Carmel cheerleading squad performs stunts at a home football game. (photo By JILL MARTIN)

“The team dynamic has just changed a lot this year,” adds sophomore Karen Meheen. “I’m so excited to see where the team goes.”

The entire team looks forward to the future of cheerleading at CHS. Although the cheer team has only been to one of the boys’ basketball games this year, in their next season they want to support more of Carmel’s athletics and attend every game they can. While in the fall the squad will continue to cheer on the Padre football team, in the winter they will focus on competitive cheering and supporting CHS basketball. 

As it is Marciano’s last year, she has faith in leaving the team in her co-captain’s hands after a successful season. 

“We have basically rewritten the program,” says Waroff. “With the personalities and people on the team, it’s like magic.” 

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