iluna@valleytowncrier.com

EDINBURG / DALLAS - For the Edinburg High Bobcats cheer team - dedication, team bonding and the history of cheer will forever stay with them.

The cheer team of 2019-2020 competing in the division of Large-Intermediate Coed, is proud to call themselves both state and national title champions of the National Cheer Association (NCA) High School competition. They competed in State December 2019 and in Nationals of February 2020, and it all began with a little history lesson from their coach, Eva Guerra-Perez.

“It was super rewarding to know - ‘you know what, I can change the culture even though I’ve been here for so long,’” said Guerra-Perez who was a former EHS cheerleader herself and now EHS’ cheer coach of eight years.

Let’s take it back to DECEMBER 8, 2019, in Dallas for NCA’s STATE COMPETITION.

“It’s basically a mini version of nationals,” said Emily Morin, freshman base on EHS’ performance team. “It’s the same type of judging and same routine for Nationals.”

The Bobcats cheer team won specialty awards in best stunts, best tumbling and overall superior showmanship at state.

“It felt good winning the state championship because we practice a lot and it pays off knowing that all those hours don’t go down the drain,” Morin said.

As a student-athlete, it can be difficult to handle school, work and social life, but the team is committed to the sport by having practice every weekday at 6:45 a.m.

“We start by rolling out the mats, a lot of repetition with everything and we drill small little things to make sure everything is perfect and we’ve been doing that ever since school started and it’s never stopped. We don’t go in till 8:50 a.m.,” Morin shared.

Morin decided to become a Bobcat cheerleader because of its highly notable cheer program and said she is proud to be a part of its legacy.

“We push everything, all our hard work and dedication showed because we went out there and won.”

For two-year EHS Bobcat cheerleader, Deslie Perez was hesitant on trying out for the team. The senior base and tumbler on the performance team shares she stopped the sport throughout middle school and wasn’t sure if she’d make the team.

“When I moved to Edinburg High School my freshman year, I heard that Bobcats had the best cheer program and I was debating on whether to try out my sophomore year and waited till my junior year to try out,” she said.

A month before the end of her junior year, Deslie practiced tumbling and made the team her senior year.

She says coach Guerra-Perez is an inspiration to her even though her time with the Bobcat cheer team was short.

“I look up to her so much, whenever she talks to us we look at her in such amaze because every word from her is coming from the heart - she inspires me.”

The word “inspire” throughout these interviews came up quite a lot but is not to be underestimated. Coach Guerra-Perez was inspired herself when she visited the International Cheer Union (ICU) World Championship last May only to find that the evolution of cheer began at Edinburg High School.

“I came across an article that talks about how the history of cheerleading and where it all started,” Guerra-Perez said. “Well, some of the roots of the history of cheerleading come back to this school and this city.”

In part the article, History of The Sport of Cheer by ICU reads:

“While a student at Edinburg High School in Edinburg, Texas, USA, in 1929, Kay Teer Crawford auditioned for and earned a place on the high school Cheerleading team; however, 90 of her schoolmates did not make the team. So in 1930, Ms. Crawford created a new style/a discipline of Cheer involving the same Cheerleading athletes - but in a different/complementary but equally entertaining and crowd enhancing style. Mixing Cheerleading with the entertaining and popular Military marching high kick style (e.g. “Drill Team”) of the time - in 1930. Ms. Crawford first introduced the Edinburg High School “Seargenettes” with a performance to the school’s marching band music throughout the game. The Cheer Discipline of Drill Team/ “Performance Cheer High Kick” was underway.” https://cheerunion.org.ismmedia.com/ISM3/std-content/repos/Top/docs/ICU_History_2018.pdf

That is when Guerra-Perez “picked at her brain” for a fresh new outlook.

“When I started off the year with this team, I chose to do things differently because we got used to having a winning record. Last year we fell into a slump because the kids didn’t do as well.”

Guerra-Perez wanted to share the history of Bobcat cheer to this year’s team and in doing so, built the team inside-out.

“It started with a lot of team bonding and building them emotionally and mentally and then we worked a lot on the physical part and things just went totally different for us this year.”

Once their strengths were established, the Bobcats were ready to take on nationals.

FEBRUARY 1, 2020 NCA’S NATIONAL COMPETITION in Dallas - DAY 1

In the world of cheer, DAY 1 for NCA’s National Competition counts as 25% of the team’s overall performance and DAY 2 as 75%.

Day one is a “practice run” for the team who are still scored by the judges. This allows the team to improve on any half-a-second off moves or “looks” to make sure that on day two, everything - and yes, EVERYTHING, is perfect.

“We went to watch teams and said ‘oh shoot that’s about to be us right now’ and then we went to the warm-up room for practice and performed,” said Deslie. “We were so overjoyed that we hit zero the first day and wanted to keep that repetition of hitting zero going.”

Another short note here - hitting zero in the world of cheer is a good thing. That is the number the team is aiming for which means they’re hitting every stunt on count, all while looking the part.

“No other Edinburg Bobcat team that has won was hitting zero on both days (day two),” Deslie shared. “So we went back to the hotel room and had a team-bonding event where we received a bunch of letters from all our alumni and read them to each other and in the letters, they said ‘you all got this!’ ‘everybody is looking up to you guys’ ‘make it happen!’ and before we were all still confident but I think that really hit us and thought ‘oh shoot we’re really gonna do this.’”

FEBRUARY 2, 2020 NCA’S NATIONAL COMPETITION in Dallas - DAY 2

The Bobcat cheer team woke up ready that day with a good breakfast in place and visited the warm-up room one last time. Within a few minutes, it was their turn to hit the mat and execute their routine to judges.

The routine they performed, however, was quite sentimental to coach Guerra-Perez. She worked alongside choreographer and owner of Cheer Strike All-Star Dance Company, Danielle Rodriguez and music producer, Eric Rodriguez of New Level Music.

“This cheer is original, I made it with the very first team that I coached here and it was based on my experience as an athlete here and everything I learned about being a Bobcat,” Guerra-Perez shared.

To perfect the performance cheer, Guerra-Perez would record the team’s practices and share it with them pointing out moves that need to be cleaner and improved on. The goal was to show passion for the sport of cheer.

“Our music has words and their specific to the program (Bobcat’s Cheer program) and I wanted them to learn the lyrics and say it to the judges with pride to get them to understand what [they’re saying] and in doing all of those things, it was the glue that made everything come together.”

AWARD REVEALS

“We already knew our score because the judges give it to you when the team is done performing,” said Deslie.

Later that evening on day two, the Bobcat cheer team was sitting with Belton High School, the other Texas-native team performing in the same division. Both teams waited in a crowded circle in anticipation for that National Championship title and that’s when Edinburg High School heard….

“With a score of 96.2, Belton High School…” Bobcats pounded the mat and gripped each other tighter in excitement knowing their score was an overall 98.125.

“We won and we all just hugged each other and it was the best feeling ever,” Deslie said as she re-enacts the moment they heard Belton’s score.

Little did they know, the Bobcats also won the Herkie High Point award.

“We were already on our way back home and I got a call asking ‘are you in the building? You need to come back and accept your award,’” Guerra-Perez said.

EHS beat out every division in the NCA Nationals overall.

Because the team was on their way back home, Guerra-Perez had one of her alumni who was working the comp, accept the award on her behalf.

Now that the team is back home, Deslie is happy to end her senior year on a good note, Emily plans to stick with the Bobcat cheer team and Lauren, freshman flyer on the performance team and daughter of Guerra-Perez who was later interviewed, has learned to never give up even when obstacles seem impossible to overcome because it’ll only make you stronger.

Edinburg High School’s Bobcat cheer team of 2019-2020 was the sixth class to win NCA's National Championship title.