ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Oh, it’s been quite a week for those Demonettes from the Santa Fe High cheer team.
Not only did they charge to the Class 4A state championship, ousting three-time defending champion Roswell in the process – they also got to perform Wednesday before the Phoenix Suns NBA game in Arizona.
“It’s been like a dream,” said senior Leyla Birkan. “It’s a great second of memory because everything has happened so fast.”
And while time has seemed compressed, it’s casting a lengthy shadow that will remain with the team members for a long, long time.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said senior Kayla Trujillo. “I’m not going to be cheering again in college so this is pretty cool. It’s a reward for how hard we’ve worked all year, and we’re so excited to be able to represent our state and our city at an NBA game.”
Performing together in a venue like that “is special,” Birkan said. “I don’t think I’ll ever have a chance to do something like that again. It’s really amazing.”
The invitation came after the Suns personnel saw the squad perform at a competition last year in Arizona. Since then, there have been numerous fundraising events to raise the money to make the trip possible.
While the 26-member, all-female squad performed in front of thousands of people at the NBA game, they were also honored before a Santa Fe Public Schools board meeting this week and can look forward to a school pep rally in their honor later this month.
It’s been quite the capper for a season that started off looking bleak when the team’s coach suddenly resigned this summer.
“It really hurt,” said senior Chantal Roybal. “The seniors tried to step up and keep the team together, but we didn’t know what was going on. We were excited when we knew that coach (Christie) Baca was going to coach us. We were just desperate for somebody to be there for us.”
Baca, whose daughter Santana Baca is a sophomore on the squad, was a former coach at her alma mater, Robertson, winning a championship there in 1998.
But this was just a bit more special, said coach Baca, who cheered for two years at the University of New Mexico. “It was completely incredible,” she said. “I cried. With my daughter there, it made it that much more memorable.”
When Baca stepped in, the seniors told her the goal was to win state.
“As a team, we told her we were going to make the most of this last year,” Trujillo said. “We were going to work our hardest and give it everything we had.”
During the competition at The Pit, trophy winners were announced in reverse order so, after second-place Centennial was called, it was between Roswell and Santa Fe.
“We were all holding hands so tight,” senior Mariah Garcia said. “All I heard was ‘Santa Fe’ and I started rushing out onto the court. I was just running out there and crying.”
While this was a first state championship for most members of the team, Roybal will now hang up her pom-pons and slip into some track shoes as she tries to help the Demonettes defend their state titles in the 800-meter relay.
“It’s really different,” she said of the two activities. “In track, you just have to run. In cheer, everybody has to be on the same page. There’s so much more practice time that goes into cheer.”
Santa Fe was one of three local schools to grab a blue trophy in cheer, with Taos winning the co-ed 3A division and Pecos winning its third straight 2A championship. That means that, of the 11 overall divisions in the Spirit Competition, area schools took the championship in four.