Division changes make for new champions
When the state’s top cheerleading teams take the floor at the Memorial Coliseum Saturday, the line-up of top teams will look significantly different from a year ago as many have switched divisions.
Westview, which has won five of the last seven titles in Class 6A Large, will compete in the 6A Small division, while West Albany, which has won the past three titles at 5A Small, is moving up to the 6A/5A Large group, where it’ll tangle with Tualatin, the 6A Small champion last year.
Wilson, which made a run at the 6A/5A Large division title last year - finishing second to Westview - is returning to the small division, where it’s won titles in three of the past four years and now won’t have to face West Albany.
And Pleasant Hill, which won a title the past four years, is sitting the meet out entirely.
The staple of the competition, though, will continue to be Springfield, which is looking to run its string of Coed division titles to seven straight.
“We look at how many girls we’ve got every year to make our determination of which division we fit into,” Westview coach Melissa Hoekert said this week. “We like to be in the large division, but we had a large class of seniors graduate last year and we just felt we fit better in the small division this year.”
Hoekert said after Westview’s tryouts, there were 14 girls who fit on the varsity team with 13 or more being the dividing line for the large division. There had planned on competing in the large division until two weeks ago.
“We’ve competed in the small division before,” she said. “The big differences are the stunts you can perform and how big you can make your pyramids.”
The Class 6A Small division is likely to be among the most competitive of the finals with 14 schools involved, including four that finished in the top 3 of their finals last year.
“It’s a good change of pace for us,” Westview senior Allie Butler said. “There’s really good competition in that division.
Oregon City, which finished third in the large division, also moved to the small division, where it’ll be looking for its first title or even runner-up spot.
Newberg, which placed second the past two years in the small division, is also looking for its first title.
Lakeridge, which finished third in the small division, also returns.
Westview, Newberg and Oregon City have all won competitions in the past month.
“We think we’ve got an outside shot at winning,” Oregon City Tara Mahoney said. “We have a pretty high degree of difficulty in our routine, so if we can get through it super clean, we’ll be in great shape.”
Mahoney works full-time as a tumbling, stunting and cheerleading coach through her company Thunder Elite, which took over coaching the Oregon City program two years ago. She said the sport is rapidly advancing as college programs offer more scholarships, thanks in part to Title IX requirements.
The University of Oregon recently created an acrobatics and tumbling team in order to add baseball.
“The number of scholarships is definitely helping to make the sport more attractive,” she said.
While the 6A Small division appears highly competitive, the 6A/5A Large division has plenty of intrigue with defending champions lining up against one another. Tualatin tied for the top score in the meet last year at 72.50.
Brookings-Harbor and North Marion will be defending their titles in 4A Large and Small, respectively.