Cactus Shadows High School’s cheer squad

Cactus Shadows High School’s cheer squad has made it to the state championships, set for March 6.

After being uncertain of how the season would go, Cactus Shadows High School cheer looks forward to competing in the AIA State Championships in March. 

Breanna Canto, CSHS varsity cheer coach, said the team has worked through people missing at practices because of quarantine and learning how to cheer in masks, on top of normal issues like injuries and grades. 

“It’s probably really tough for them to even wrap their heads around it because we aren’t practicing like a normal season,” Canto said. 

“At the same time, they’ve managed to still continue with their work ethic and pushing through it all. It’s been tough but we’re trying to keep it as normal as we could.” 

Canto and her coaching staff assure the team that they are there for them. 

“Showing them that we’re here until the very end and saying we’re not going to give up on them,” Canto said. “I think that really helps them, knowing that we have their support, or we have their back, and they keep pushing through because as long as we’re there, they know we will make it happen no matter what.” 

Team captains Sophie Sanchez and Ally Thompson said they work to keep their team motivated as well. 

“I think one of the biggest things, especially for our team, is just making sure that we’re all working together and feel connected because the second that we get frantic or if something happens and one person has doubts, it has a domino effect,” Sanchez said.  

“One of the main things is just making sure that our bond is super close and knowing that giving them encouragement and helping them know that they’re capable of doing what they believe they can do.” 

Thompson also said she tries to remind the team how grateful it should be for the opportunity to have a season. The pandemic could have put athletics on hold. 

“Everything that we’ve been through really brought us closer,” Thompson said. 

“Knowing we didn’t have a season for a hot minute, and this has been super hard, but our team has pushed through everything.” 

Due to the pandemic, the CSHS cheer team has to wear special masks that are “ariel regulated” and strap around the backs of their heads, Thompson said. 

Getting used to wearing masks was a challenge for the team, Sanchez said. It had to ease cheering with them on. 

“Now that we’ve done it for a while and we’ve trained our bodies, it got easier,” Sanchez said. “It’s something that we just have to go with the changes and adapt the best we can, because this is how things are. I think that the more it becomes a common thing, it will be easier to get used to.” 

Making it to the state championships shows what they are able to achieve despite the challenges, Sanchez said. 

“I think the most exciting part is we are able to have that season and be able to feel that bond as a team because it is something that you look forward to all year,” Sanchez said. 

“It shows that all your work is paying off and so you’re able to show what you can do and the fact that we’re able to continue having a season. Getting to have state is just something that’s really exciting.” 

The seniors are especially appreciative to have a season. 

“As a senior, this is our last competition and I’m really excited because of everything that we’ve been through,” Thompson said. “It’s just a whole new meaning this season, really.”