ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Near the top of the south bleachers at the Pit on Saturday night, they huddled together.
And then they heard the name they were waiting to hear:
“Everyone started crying,” said William Sanders, a senior.
Sanders is a cheerleader at Eldorado. And these were not tears of disappointment.
Once the Storm was announced as the second-place team in the Class 5A cheerleading competition at the State Spirit Championships, Sanders and the rest of the Eagles had virtual confirmation that they had unseated Cleveland to become the 2014 champion.
Moments later, the Eagles were formally announced as the first-place team in 5A, and raced down the steps of the Pit to center court to collect their prize.
“It’s amazing,” said senior LaNessa Gutierrez. “It’s like no other feeling.”
Eldorado had finished third at state two years ago, and then second to Cleveland last year.
But the Eagles, coach Rob White said, nailed both their routines – one Friday and the second on Saturday.
“These kids … to be honest, they’re very awkward kids,” White said with a smile. “They’re shy. But they stayed calm under the pressure.”
Eldorado had the strongest routine on Friday, scoring 86.7 points. The Eagles scored 86.6 on Saturday. Of the 10 teams in the 5A cheer division, they posted the best score both days.
Their two-day total of 173.3 points gave them a comfortable victory over Cleveland (159.4). Rio Rancho (156.7) placed third.
“We came in confident, we hit our stunts and we did what we do,” said Sanders, the lone male member of the squad.
Eldorado had an inkling that Cleveland was the team it had to beat, but the Eagles decided to focus internally instead.
“We were worried about our own competition,” said senior Ellie Rangel. “We weren’t worried about anyone else.”
This event had been held at the Santa Ana Star Center the last couple of years, but returned to the Pit this year. A sizable crowd of about 8,000 didn’t faze Eldorado.
“We were pretty confident after we hit both the first and second routines,” White said. “We hit ’em big and we hit ’em clean.”
There was no surprise with the other two local champions on Saturday.
Hope Christian’s girls won their 11th consecutive cheerleading title in Class 3A, and Valley’s dance squad earned a blue trophy for the second straight season and the eighth time in nine years.
The Huskies continue to have no equal in 3A, easily outpointing St. Michael’s in the 3A competition, 170.7-138.9.
“Day 1 went amazing. Day 2 wasn’t exactly our best performance. We dropped a couple of stunts, which was stressful, but the rest of the routine was amazing,” said Hope coach Kelly Grice.
The Vikettes were the only 5A dance team to score over 80 points in both of their routines. They scored 171.7 points. Eldorado (165.3) and Albuquerque High (162.2) were second and third, respectively.
“Today was just the icing on the cake,” said Vikettes co-head coach Sandra Naranjo, who shares duties with her daughter Danielle. “(Friday) was a little crazy because of the timing (and) because the music on the floor was so low. But my girls are just fantastic. They’re an amazing group of girls.”
Valley had only three seniors among its 11.
Tularosa (1A-2A), St. Michael’s (3A) and Roswell (4A) won the other dance titles.
In 3A, Sandia Prep was the runner-up, with Hope Christian third.
Gateway Christian (1A), Pecos (2A) and Santa Fe (4A) were the other cheerleading champions. For Santa Fe, it was its second state title at the Pit in 15 days following girls basketball.
Taos (1A-3A) and Las Cruces (4A-5A) captured the co-ed crowns. In fact, the top three schools in 4A-5A were all from Las Cruces, with Mayfield and Oñate also picking up trophies.
Teams in both cheer and dance were judged on two performances – one each day. A large majority of the state spirit judges come in from other states. Of the 24 judges, only four hail from New Mexico.