The Pleasanton Middle School cheer squad won its second consecutive national title last weekend, capping an undefeated season by finishing ahead of crosstown competitors from Hart Middle School in the finals of the United Spirit Association (USA) Jr. Spirit Nationals.
"The girls worked for nine months to perfect this routine for nationals," Pleasanton cheer coach Jennifer Gatan said, reflecting on the championship during an interview Tuesday morning.
Pleasanton earned the victory in the Small Junior High Show Cheer Novice division at the USA Nationals event Sunday in the Charles M. Schulz Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. The team consisted of nine eight-graders and six seventh-graders.
The strong showing for local cheerleaders last weekend came two weeks after Harvest Park Middle School won its third consecutive title at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) nationals event in Anaheim.
"Looking back on our performances, I am extremely proud of our girls," Harvest Park cheer adviser Kyra Lewis-Pervere said Wednesday. "They worked hard throughout the season, increasing the difficulty of their stunts -- as well as overcoming the fact that two of our girls had limited practice the weeks leading up to nationals due to a fractured hand and sprained wrist."
"The team really came together and rallied around each other, which was fantastic to witness. They were not only proud of themselves, but of each other and what they were able to accomplish," she said. "I was appreciative and honored to be a part of that."
At the USA Nationals event, Pleasanton and Hart competed against 10 other teams in their division in the preliminary round Sunday morning, and the top three teams advanced to the final round that afternoon, where Pleasanton finished in first, Hart in second and Alta Sierra Intermediate School from Clovis in third.
The victory clinched back-to-back national titles for Pleasanton Middle School and the city's fourth consecutive USA Nationals crown overall. Hart, which won the 2013 and 2014 championships, improved eight spots better than the 10th-place result the team posted in 2015.
"This season, we've held our ground and with either first- or second-place placements at all regional competitions and finished on top at nationals with a strong second-place placement. And I could not be more proud of my girls and their accomplishment," Hart coach Kelly Redgrave said Wednesday.
"They truly rallied together and fought to the end. They make me one proud coach," Redgrave added.
Gatan said there's a "strong sense of community" among the local middle school cheer squads, adding that even though the girls may compete against each other, they will also cheer and show support for their crosstown peers.
"The camaraderie is also there," she said. "(Cheer) is a great program for the community to have."
Redgrave concurred, adding, "Pleasanton has a very strong cheer program going on at the schools, and I'm very fortunate to be a part of it."