Saddleback cheerleaders show off their skills (Courtesy of Jerry Hannula)
The spirited Saddleback College Gaucho cheerleading squad are always pumping up the crowd and players during football and basketball games.
“My favorite part of cheer is being in front of a crowd,” said Lauren Bagan, 20, broadcast journalism, one of two main captains of the squad. “I am really school spirited. I love getting people pumped up.”
Kinesiology 57, the Saddleback cheerleading course, is coached by Denise Harris, who attended Saddleback before teaching at Trabuco Hills High School and becoming an NFL cheerleader for the Los Angeles Rams.
The course is designed to teach students cheerleading and songleading techniques and skills, so they can apply them well at football or basketball games.
“I feel like our team is really talented and close as a group this year,” said Lauren Mooshagian, 20, marketing, one of three co-captains on the squad. “Whenever our coach wants us to do something we put our best effort forward and do it.”
The cheerleading squad is able to expand their routines this year due to their larger squad of 30 cheerleaders.
“Last year we had about 14 women. Now we have 30, so we have a lot to work with and can do a lot of pyramids,” said Janelle Cazares, 19, child development, one of the co-captains. “There is always room for improvement so we want to improve in stunting, dancing and engaging the crowd at games.”
The course requires students to try out just like many other sports at Saddleback. The tryouts gauge students on their stunting, tumbling and dancing abilities.
“We have a couple girls that just came out of high school, some that have never done cheer before so it is really easy for anyone to get involved because we are so diverse,” said Ashley Harris, 20, business, the other main captain of the squad.
However, not everyone who applies gets on the team.
“We have this stereotype at this school that it is super easy to get on the team,” Mooshagian said. “The tryouts are a lot less stressful than high school, but we do everything that a normal cheer team would. We stunt, tumble and dance.”
Cheer is a year-round sport which means that the students even work in the summer semester. The cheerleaders are headed to the USA College camp this year to learn new dances, learn better technique, and compete against other colleges in the area.
“We went to USA College camp in Anaheim this year and competed in a whole routine. We either won first or second which was really cool,” Ashley Harris said. “Camp is a good time for all of us to come together and learn new routines for the semester while bonding as a team.”
During the fall and spring semester, the squad also participates in 50/50 fundraisers, where half of the proceeds collected at each game go toward the department and the other half go toward the school.
“I think the 50/50 fundraisers are great,” Mooshagian said. “It is always nice to have money coming to school and to our program so we are able to go places with the team.”
According to Ashley Harris, the team receives around $150 to $200 at each game from the fundraiser that will go to the school’s snack bar and other activities while the other half helps for the transportation when traveling with the team.
“I love traveling with the team. We always have good memories on the bus trips,” Bagan said. “I love to be put in different schools and stadiums too.”
Since cheerleading is a team sport, the squad thrives on bonding and trust in the squad to complete tasks like stunting.
“I think that in cheer it is so important to trust each person, because when the flyer is up in the air you want to trust that the base will hold you underneath,” Mooshagian said. “We always try to focus on team building and always have trust in each other.”
With all the characterizations cheerleading has been assigned, the squad always defends their title as a sport whenever it is called anything else.
“Cheerleading is actually a sport. It is a common misconception,” Harris said. “Cheer is really hard work when we lift up 100 to 120 pound women on our team. When we dance that takes a lot of coordination too.”
“The stunting and tumbling skills we do definitely take athletic ability. Cheer being a sport is such a controversial topic but people need to believe that we work very hard and love what we do, Bagan said.
During each home game that the Gauchos play, the cheerleaders entertain the audience by performing a new half time dance which they work on during their designated class time.
“Currently we are working on our half time shows and making sure we are ready if we do make it to playoffs,” Mooshagian said. “It would be so much fun if we made it to playoffs. We have been so close the past couple of years and I just want to make it so we can cheer in front of a huge crowd.”
“We all haven’t gotten the college experience necessarily so this is the closest we are going to get to a sorority, so I hope everyone can just stay close and be a family and not forget about each other after we are done in two years,” Bagan said.
Bagan is a junior this year and is starting to apply to schools like Cal State Northridge and University of Southern California to purse her goal in becoming an anchorwomen. This might be her last year of cheer, in order to put more focus on her career.
Ashley Harris is a third year at Saddleback and plans on transferring in fall 2012 to either Cal State Fullerton or San Diego State University.
Harris “would love to keep doing [cheer] because [she] has been doing it all her life,” but might not be able to at the university she chooses.
Mooshagian is planning on transferring out by next fall to Azusa Pacific University and to continue cheering and one day become an NFL cheerleader.
Cazaves will apply to Arizona State University for their child development program.
Rachel Vinograd, 18, kinesiology, the third co-captain on the squad, is in her third year at Saddleback and final semester cheering for the college. She plans to transfer to Cal State Long Beach in fall 2012 to continue cheering.
“I think the best part of performing is when we walk off the field and random parents come up to us and tell us we did really well,” Vinograd said. “It is the greatest feeling in the world how even though we are there supporting the football team there are some people supporting us too.”