Beyond a competition, for the Eldorado cheer squad it was all about becoming a family – warts and all.
But that helped the Eagles merge 10 seniors with a number of cheer newcomers to create a team that won the Class 5A state championship Saturday night at the Pit with 179.2 points. That was just enough to wrest the title away from defending champion Rio Rancho, which finished with 176.83, just ahead of La Cueva’s 175.8.
“Honestly, it was a lot of trial and error,” said senior Amelia Gatterman. “Arguments and fights all the time. But we started getting into the groove of things and finding how each other worked and who each other are.”
And little by little Eldorado came together.
“These kids have been working really hard,” said coach Rob White. “It’s been kind of a struggle but we peaked at the right time. They’ve been working their butts off for a long time, since back in June. They’ve come together as a family and worked together and this a great accomplishment.”
Like any family, however, things were not always smooth, but leadership shown by past Eagles helped lead to this success.
“It’s been great because I started out on varsity as a freshman and I really learned from the older girls how to involve people and how to make them, even the freshmen, feel welcome,” said senior Isabella Juarez. “You really have to get to know each other or else it won’t work.”
The energy and enthusiasm that the Eagles brought to the Pit floor was the big difference, White said.
“Our game day was very sharp, very clean,” he said. “We led the crowd. We wanted to make sure they were having a good time and led the crowd well and got the crowd reaction.”
Merging the seniors with the newcomers was a season-long task, but one that everybody accepted.
“We mixed the stunt groups really well and we gave them a chance to work with some of the veteran kids,” White said. “They kind of mentored them through everything. And we have a great group of seniors and they worked really well with the young kids.”
In the 5A co-ed division, Albuquerque High scored 171.07 points to snare second place behind champion Hobbs with 182.57. Centennial was third.
“I think that we showed it on the mat and that we did really good and I’m really proud of my team for what we showed,” said senior Taliya Rivera.
The Bulldogs got a boost this year when Rivera convinced her boyfriend, senior Izayah Bustillos, to give it a shot.
“She said I had to go,” he said with a smile. “Actually she said give it a shot.”
And it was a shot Bustillos was glad he took.
“It’s actually fun,” he said. “I thought it was going to be boring, but it was actually fun. I enjoyed everything. The people are nice and it’s a fun experience.”
The big difference between the two activities, Bustillos said, is reacting to what is happening.
“In this one, you have to show emotions and in football, you can hide your emotions,” he said.
For Rivera, the outcome was somewhat disappointing.
“Honestly, my expectations were that we were going to win first, but that’s okay,” she said. “We did our best. I think that we have the best energy. We always put our best out.”
And looking back on her career, it has been a rewarding experience.
“I cheered all four years of high school,” Rivera said. “It’s been amazing, I started when my coaches started and they’ve been the best coaches I could ever ask for and I’m really happy about the cheer program at Albuquerque High.”
NOTABLES: Lovington took the co-ed 1A-4A cheer title, followed by Bernalillo and Santa Teresa. … Taos (4A), Raton (3A) and Questa (repeating in 1A-2A) were the other cheerleading state champions on Saturday. … The dance titles were handed out on Friday night.