Competition Cheer Comeback


Clarissa Zuo, Staff Writer

   Coach Jayme Fechtelkotter, who competed with the previous West Ranch competition team, explained why she felt the need for a comeback. 

   “After seeing all the talent the past few years I’ve been here, it motivated me to start the competition team because I didn’t want any of the girls to miss out on that time, experience or talent,” Coach Fechtelkotter explained.

   Competition cheer is a sport where teams perform a prepared routine for a panel of judges. The routines are extremely complex, with professionally choreographed stunting, gymnastics, dancing and cheering.

   West Ranch competes in two types of routines: game day and traditional. Game day is similar to typical Friday night football game routines, with most of the routine being focused on calling cheers. On the other hand, traditional is more focused on technical skills like stunting and tumbling.

   Lily Fair, one of the West Ranch team captains, explained how the team spends an average practice. “We usually stretch, and then we warm up stunting, and then we’ll go through sections of our routine, and then we’ll do full-outs of the routine.”

   The team of 18 cheerleaders had a phenomenal season, winning a bid to USA nationals in the game day category during their very first competition.

   Emma Hamilton, another one of the captains, summarized, “We competed in three in-person competitions leading up to nationals. One UCA competition where we got our game day bid to UCA nationals, one USA competition where we got our bid to USA nationals, and CIF-SS where we placed 2nd in the advanced division. We also had a fourth competition where we competed virtually for UCA.”

   These successes are made more impressive by the backdrop of COVID, which led to several competitions being canceled in the middle of the season and some team members unable to participate due to quarantine. Not only did this create a difficult season, but it may also make future seasons more challenging.

   “COVID hasn’t been great for us,” Coach Fechtelkotter explained. “We’ve had many competitions canceled and as a first-year team we really need that experience out on the mat competing.”

   But these challenges did not hold back the West Ranch team. The group continued to work hard with both early morning and late evening practices. Finally, on Feb. 12, the first day of Nationals, the team flew to Disney World, where the competition is held each year that Wednesday and held practice for the two days before the competition.

   Coach Samantha Coe, who serves as advisor for the cheer program as well as coach, explained how proud she was of the team’s time at nationals. “The team did really well at nationals,” Coach Coe explained. “They hit everything they were supposed to and there were no falls. They were spot-on as far as energy goes, you could tell they were having fun out there. That’s what we were hoping for out of the whole thing, that they could feel that energy and success of being out there. Even though we didn’t win, we definitely put it all on the mat.”

   That performance paid off just two weeks later when the team was named USA Spirit National Champions in the Varsity Show Cheer Intermediate-Medium division on Feb. 26 at USA Nationals, held at Disneyland.

   “Winning USA Nationals is the best feeling ever!” Hamilton said. “We have worked so hard all year for this and our hard work truly paid off. I’m super proud of this team. It’s amazing to take home this win, especially since we are a first year program.”

Click to watch the West Ranch team's routine.

   The team doesn’t just work together on the mat. Behind the scenes, the group is extremely close-knit, spending a lot of time together between fundraisers, regular practices and bonding events.

   Fair said, “I feel like we’re all really close for being different ages. We’re all really close friends.”

   Coach Coe and Coach Fechtelkotter certainly have big plans for the team as they look towards the coming years.

   Coach Jayme explained, “When I got hired, my goal was to build an empire for West Ranch and to have multiple teams competing because West Ranch is such a great school and we have so many talented girls… I would love to have a freshman team, a JV team and a varsity team. It just really helps with that competition and camaraderie atmosphere with everyone wanting to improve on their skills and wanting to be at the competitions just dominating everywhere.”

   With an incredible first season over and a bright future ahead, it looks like West Ranch Competition Cheer is back and here to stay.