At Sedona Red Rock High School there is a group of girls brought together by one common bond. Like a team, a family.
They wear uniforms. They practice. They even risk injury.
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They are the Scorpions cheerleaders, and while at the end of the day they do not win nor lose, they work just as hard to put on display the best version of themselves.
“I try and strive for perfection because there’s so much work that we put into it, and at that time when we’re on the field I want to make sure everything is perfect, and we work so hard for it to be perfect,” senior captain Litzi Ontiveros said.
Ontiveros said she has gotten into arguments about whether cheerleading is a sport or not. The International Olympic Committee approved it as a provisional Olympic sport.
There could soon be high-flying ponytails at the Games, but on the Red Rock campus they are already bouncing. The girls routinely toss one another up to 10 feet in the air, which invites obvious opportunity for getting hurt.
Falling from the sky means that cheerleaders’ safety is entrusted in the hands of their peers. They also tumble and stunt; jumping and flipping across the floor and sometimes in tandem.
The Scorpions cheer team is not one of the most heralded, but participates in something equally as dangerous as those on the gridiron they support. Feeling the rush of it all is one of the most attractive aspects.
“You literally have someone’s life in your hands at that moment, so you get all of this adrenaline and you start to freak out but that’s one of the best parts that I love about cheer,” Ontiveros said.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cheerleaders across the nation sustained more than 10,000 head-related injuries in 2009.
They began practice in August, like the fall sports, and will continue through the winter sports season, working on cardiovascular and core strength in addition to dances and stunts.
They also adhere to the same academic requirements as the other athletes on campus.
Aside from performing at pep rallies and athletic events, they extend a helping hand in the community. In September they volunteered with the Sedona 30 to raise money for the community. They raise money for their own uniforms as well.
“We try to be more a part of the community and try to be out there more, so they see we’re not just girls with pompoms, we’re more than that,” Ontiveros said. “We work hard for the things that we do.”
And once, during a three-game stretch in the 2016 football season, they disappeared due to the lack of a coach.
People began asking where they had gone, commenting that games were suddenly much quieter than before. The school spirit was missing.
Second-year coach Teresa Lamparter then took over, and it can be argued that they were a good luck charm; upon their return the team won.
Another senior captain, Eunice Martinez, has cheered since the third grade. Being a part of the cheerleading squad brings with it the same connection that other teams, clubs and groups have.
They spend hours together creating and practicing dance routines and performances. They make posters and decorated the locker room for the football team’s senior night on Friday, Oct. 27. It is no wonder the bond they have is strong.
“I always try to put my team before myself. I care a lot about them because they’ve supported me through a lot,” Ontiveros said. “It’s one of my ways of getting away from stress and school. We’re always just having fun and laughing.”
This year’s team has 14 members, many of whom bring prior experience from the squads at West Sedona School and Big Park Community School.
“What we’ve found is a lot of girls are just excited to be here. From what I’m finding the girls are here because they want to be here and most of them have experience,” Lamparter said. “I’m more of a supervision figure, they actually are the ones teaching the cheers because they know them from year to year.”
Five seniors were honored during halftime of the football game: Ontiveros, Martinez, Itzel Perez, Miranda DeAngelo and Yaquelin Jimenez.
It may not be the most recognized team on campus, but the Scorpions cheerleaders make up one of the loudest and proudest.