The Clovis East Varsity Pep team made school history by becoming the first team from the school to ever take first place at the USA High School Spirit Nationals competition on Feb. 23.
The team earned its first-place victory in the Small Varsity Advanced Pom/Song category.
The team had the option of entering in the intermediate division, but the one of the team’s coaches and choreographer, Stacia Swan, said the team members chose to push themselves and enter the advanced division.
“I think just knowing that our team is really, really talented and that being advanced would then give us more of a push,” said Kayleigh Payne, a sophomore on the team. “The advanced, we really had to work hard for it.”
The team was also the only one from the Valley to compete in both the Pom and Jazz divisions of the competition, taking second place in the advanced Jazz competition.
Swan joined the team just three years ago. In her first year, the team made it to the finals in the USA High School Spirit Nationals, breaking a nine-year streak of preliminary round elimination.
“To win in the advanced division is an incredible feat,” Swan said. “We have phenomenal parents, supportive administrators and some of the hardest-working girls I’ve ever worked with.”
The competition season is now over for the team, but that doesn’t mean they get a break. Tryouts for the team will begin in about a month and summer training soon after that. The team will then begin performing at rallies and games in August before competition season starts again in November.
“You really are training, I would say, 11 months out of the year,” Swan said.
Many of the girls are involved with dance programs outside of school as well.
Kaiyah Lee, a junior who has been with on team for the past three years, said she has been dancing competitively since she was 4 years old, as has Payne. Now, they have adopted leadership roles on the team and are eager to begin learning their next routine.
The team’s success has come, despite the fact that their team consist of no seniors.
Lee and Payne said they are excited about the team’s future, since all of the current members will be returning next year.
Payne likened the team’s relationship to a sisterhood because of how close they are to one another, one of the reasons she said that has led to their success and makes the team so special.
The team’s accomplishments have also garnered attention from the community.
Swan said she has even had parents reach out to her, asking what their daughters will need to prepare for and learn in order to join the team.
“I actually got a text message from a junior high mom earlier today. Her daughter’s so excited, she sent me video of a new skill that she’s got,” Swan said. “So you kind of see that trickle down. The younger girls are working hard. They see what the high school girls are doing, and it’s inspiring and motivating.”
With the community and the next generation of girls looking to see what they do next, Lee and Payne said the eyes on them only fuel their motivation to push themselves for greater success next year.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but it feels good,” Lee said. “It motivates us to be better so that they have someone to look up to.”