For the second year in a row, the Clovis West cheerleading squad was crowned national champions by the United Spirit Association last weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center.
“To say that I am proud of becoming back-to-back national champions would be an understatement,” Clovis West cheerleading coach Taleen Issakhanian said. “As someone who went from being on the team to now coaching this team, these wins are even better. I have such a passion for coaching, and I love what I do.”
Twenty girls, from freshman to seniors, took part in the competition in Southern California where they showcased their expertise in cheer, but also dance. The team executed a two-and-a-half-minute routine that included two music and one cheer section.
“Our routine included many different aspects such as stunting, tumbling, jumping and a little bit of dancing. These skills take years of training and competitive cheerleading is not easy on an athletes’ body,” Issakhanian explained. “This team absolutely deserved this win because it has not been an easy road to get here, but their passion for the sport and all of their hard work led them to this victory.”
Her squad’s commitment is year-round. Choreography starts in June and practice lasts until February at a minimum of two times a week.
To become back-to-back champions, let alone champions, the Golden Eagles must stay focused on all aspects of their lives. From classwork and school duties, to gameday activities and practice –– the cheerleading squad doesn’t have it easy.
But that offers a chance for members of the squad to rise and lead the team.
“My athletes don’t get the summers off. They must juggle the responsibilities of being a student-athlete as well as all the game coverages that come with being on our game squads,” Issakhanian said. “We work nine months to get two minutes and thirty seconds to show the judges why we’re the best. It’s not like any other sport that gets four quarters and numerous chances.
“I personally don’t like the idea of captains, so I do not have any captains on my team. Every year the seniors take a leadership role and the natural leaders always step up.”
For Issakhanian, she can relate to her squad on both a personal and professional level. As a former standout on the squad herself, she knows the rigors of becoming a top athlete and dancer.
“My experiences as a cheerleader on this very team have absolutely helped me become a better coach,” Issakhanian explained. “I am able to speak from my experiences because I was on this team, on these mats and representing Clovis West five years ago. I have both won and lost as an athlete on the Clovis West competition cheer team. I understand how hard it is for my athletes to go to school all day and be at practice all night.”
In order to qualify for the national competition, they must first get past regionals with a set score of 80 before they can advance. Luckily for the Golden Eagles, USA hosts a regional event in town. Accessible? Yes, but the Golden Eagles travel down to Southern California at times to compete against teams they’d likely see in the national competition.
It’s fair to say the strategy has worked wonders for Clovis West after another championship in 2019.