JDHS cheerleaders take state title as season wraps up

Small teams and empty gyms were the rule, not the exception this year.

Courtesy photo / Carlene Nore 
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s cheer team, shown here after winning the Region V competition, went on to win the state championships for their division for 2021.

Courtesy photo / Carlene Nore Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s cheer team, shown here after winning the Region V competition, went on to win the state championships for their division for 2021.

A sports season marked by virtual competitions and empty gymnasiums ended swimmingly, at least for the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé cheer team.

While it wasn’t as good a season for Thunder Mountain High School, their coach said, they were able to work on things they normally would not have, such as writing a fight song for the school.

“We had a fantastic season. It was short, but we’re region champs and state champs,” said JDHS coach Carlene Nore said. “We also participated in some other virtual competitions.”

Both teams had smaller-than-usual rosters, particularly TMHS, said coach Susie Denton in a phone interview. Their size precluded them from participating in certain kinds of competitions. Injuries also marked their run-up to regionals ending their participation before it started, Denton said.

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“We had a small team. That’s just the way it was this year. This has been a strange year,” Denton said. “We did not compete. We worked up everything we needed for the regional competition, but a week before the regionals, one of the bases broke her finger.”

The athlete with the broken finger was replaced, but her replacement injured her knee, scuttling any hopes for competition, Denton said.

Courtesy photo / Susie Denton 
Thunder Mountain High School’s varsity cheer team, shown here, had a slimmer-than-usual roster and light season injuries that ended their title hopes prematurely.

Courtesy photo / Susie Denton Thunder Mountain High School’s varsity cheer team, shown here, had a slimmer-than-usual roster and light season injuries that ended their title hopes prematurely.

“We recorded everything except the halftime routine. It was hard to let it go this year, but it was the right thing to do,” Denton said. “We felt like we’re getting something to be able to cheer at the games. There were a lot of things that were good about this season. We got to work on a lot of little things about our motion technique. There were little things that were worked on throughout the season that were important.”

The empty gyms, a fixture of the early season before limited numbers of parents were allowed back in, was rough on the kids, Nore said. There were other difficulties in this new virtual season as well.

“We were recording in an empty gym. It’s hard to bring that enthusiasm. And every team is submitting a perfect routine,” Nore said. “It’s one thing to be in the gym with everyone cheering you on with the energy and adrenaline. It’s another to be in the gym with just two coaches.”

TMHS has its eyes on the future, Denton said.

“We’re hoping we’ll have increased participation,” Denton said. “That’s the goal. The kids have lots of ideas about that.”

JDHS aims to keep its performance tip-top with a good group of oncoming athletes, Nore said. They’re also looking at the possibility of out-of-state camps as normalcy returns.

“2019 was the first time we went out of state to go to camp. Last year, of course, we couldn’t go to camp,” Nore said. “We hope the school district will allow us to go to camp this summer. It’s great team bonding and we learn a ton of skills.”

Graduating seniors

Coaches have submitted their remarks for team seniors graduating this year.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé

Julia Domin, third-year cheerleader: This young lady never misses a practice or event. Even if she has a broken nose. She gives her best and is the definition of a “fighter.” She understands that there will always be ups and downs and doing what you enjoy is worth it. We’ll miss her smile, work ethic and laughter next year. Julia will be attending Montana State University to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing science. “I love cheer because when I’m at practice it is an escape from my life. I have so much going on and when I’m there I feel like I’m home.”

Jennaya Morris, fourth-year cheerleader: Jennaya has been cheering since she was a little girl. She brings skill, spirit, enthusiasm and showmanship to our team. As an athlete she’s dependable, thoughtful and a great teammate. Jennaya plans on earning her Certified Nursing Assistant certification and then continuing her education. “What I love about cheer is you can always have forever friends after cheer is over and I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for the coaches helping me through life challenges and learning life skill down the road.”

Matthew Naputi, third-year cheerleader: Matthew is all heart and gives his all! As a teammate he pushes himself to do his best while motivating and encouraging his team. His enthusiasm is contagious and he’s definitely our team cheerleader and motivator. Matthew plans to get into wholesaling for retail. “Cheer has been a big part of me since I can remember. It’s great for its drive, dedication, preparation, discipline, respect and love as a team and family.”

Katrina Taton, fourth-year cheerleader: Katrina never missed an opportunity to improve and gain skill. She’s been at almost every practice and event over the past 4 years. She’s shown that growth happens when you do the work. She’s played almost every role on the team over the years. She brings leadership, dedication, work ethic and enthusiasm to the team. She understands that each year is a new team and roles change, she sees where her “team need” is and works on being the best she can be. She plans on taking online courses towards a degree in Psychology . “I love cheer because it is a home away from home and I meet people who are like family to me now.”

Taylor Stevenson, fourth-year cheerleader: Taylor has proven that hard work pays off. From a quiet freshman -too scared to stunt to a confident senior she’s the kind of athlete that just doesn’t give up. Taylor has a great work ethic, positive attitude and always seems to make everyone smile. She plans on attending Western Washington University in the fall. “I love how cheer brings athletes together from all different skill levels and creates a family.”

Sophia Caputo, second-year cheerleader: Unlike other teammates, Sophie had never cheered before last season. She came from a skiing and pep band background and showed up at tryouts determined to make the team in 2019. In the last 2 seasons she’s grown as a person and as an athlete. She earned her spot as a main flier on our team and we pushed her out of her comfort zone, but it paid off with new confidence and new skills. Sophie plans on attending Western Washington University in the fall. “I love how much cheer pushed me to be a better athlete and person. Also how the team really felt like a family.”

Courtesy photo / Susie Denton 
Sarah Heaton, Ann Steinman, and Kaylani Tupou, shown here, are graduating seniors from Thunder Mountain High School’s cheer team.

Courtesy photo / Susie Denton Sarah Heaton, Ann Steinman, and Kaylani Tupou, shown here, are graduating seniors from Thunder Mountain High School’s cheer team.

Thunder Mountain High School

Their leadership and experience provided strength for the entire team during a very difficult season.

Sarah Heaton, fourth-year cheerleader: Sarah Heaton has cheered all four years of high school, this being her third year on the varsity team. She plans to attend Montana State University in the fall.

Ann Steinman, fourth-year cheerleader: Ann Steinman has also cheered all four years of high school, this being her second year on the varsity team. Ann plans to attend Boise State University in the fall.

Kaylani Tupou, third-year cheerleader: Kaylani Tupou has cheered three years on the Falcon’s varsity team. She plans to attend Dixie State University in the fall.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

Courtesy photo / Carlene Nore 
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s graduating seniors, shown here, include Katrina Taton, Matthew Naputi, Jennya Morris, Taylor Stevenson, Julia Domin and Sophia Caputo.

Courtesy photo / Carlene Nore Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s graduating seniors, shown here, include Katrina Taton, Matthew Naputi, Jennya Morris, Taylor Stevenson, Julia Domin and Sophia Caputo.

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JDHS cheerleaders take state title as season wraps up

Small teams and empty gyms were the rule, not the exception this year.