By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Delphian, McMinnville cheer teams bring it on

Courtesy of Jake Kugler##
 Members of the Delphian cheerleading team pose with their Class 3A/2A/1A state championship trophy.
Courtesy of Jake Kugler## Members of the Delphian cheerleading team pose with their Class 3A/2A/1A state championship trophy.
Courtesy of Tracy Brandt##
The McMinnville High School cheerleading team finished second in the Class 6A coed large team division.
Courtesy of Tracy Brandt## The McMinnville High School cheerleading team finished second in the Class 6A coed large team division.
Courtesy of Jake Kugler##
Courtesy of Jake Kugler##
Courtesy of Tracy Brandt##
Courtesy of Tracy Brandt##

The seeds of McMinnville’s second-place finish at the 2016 OSAA Cheerleading State Championships on Feb. 13 may have been sown the week before, at Tualatin High School.

The Grizzlies participated in a regional tournament between similarly sized coed teams and finished a disappointing fourth. So McMinnville head coach Tracy Brandt and her 19 charges responded as they are conditioned to do: review the judges’ comments, take as much from them as possible, and build toward a stronger performance next time.

“We worked really hard this last week on making those small things clean. It just kind of clicked suddenly,” said Brandt, who has coached the Grizzlies’ cheer team for 18 years.

“I just want them to feel like they did the best they could, no matter what the outcome. That’s all I can ask of them. They really did that.”

McMinnville’s performance at the state cheer championships, held at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, earned it 174.4 points, 1.3 more than third-place Beaverton. The Grizzlies emerged from the performance penalty-free, with nearly identical judges’ scores in the building skills (64.40) and tumbling/jumps catgeories (64.00).

Brandt referred to McMinnville’s routine as “probably one of the better routines I’ve had.” On a 1-to-10 scale, the Grizzlies’ jumps in the routine measured out to a 9.3 degree of difficulty; the pyramids built during the performance registered at an 8.5.

“They executed as well as they could,” Brandt said. “They had a little tiny error in one group but not enough to drop below second-place scoring. Executed well enough in other areas that made up for that.”

The Feb. 13 performance marked the third runner-up finish for the Grlzzlies in Brandt’s tenure as head coach. Thurston posted a score of 197.40 to win the coed large team division for a third consecutive season.

Members of the McMinnville cheerleading team include freshman Abby Brown; sophomores Mady Chesnik (alternate), MaKinzee Duddles, Madison Farley, Mariana Flores, Sydney Howard (alternate) and Eliza Payne; juniors Jordan Burgess, Diana Diaz, Jonathan Espinoza-Angui, Julian Lemus Campuzano, Nancy Macias, Malayna McCormick, Maranda McCormick, Sabrina Miranda (alternate), Rogelio Rosales, Haley Schoenthal, Rochelle Schoenthal, Valeria Solan, Levi Timm and Merica Zoch; and senior Bri Dinan.


Young Dragons win school’s first state cheerleading title

Like many of Delphian’s cheerleaders, Harumi Sanchis has a dance background. The Dragons senior, a native of Alicante, Spain, had nine years of experience with ballet and flamenco dancing but little in the way of rah-rah, sis-boom-bah, American-style dance.

“Cheerleading in Spain is not a thing at all,” Sanchis said.

Delphian, the Sheridan-based boarding school with an international enrollment base, started a cheerleading squad three years ago, fueled by school spirit and a nascent understanding of the sport. “We didn’t know what to improve on how to improve,” recalled Sanchis, whose younger sister, Agatha, also competes in cheer.

Today, the Dragons can yell it into bullhorns: they are state champions.

Delphian posted an overall judged score of 160.70 to win the Class 3A/2A/1A state cheerleading title, edging out Vernonia (155.90) and Pleasant Hill (150.70).

“I feel like they did really well,” Dragons head coach Sarah Abu-eideh said. “The beginning was the part with the most stunts, and they nailed all their stunts. I was proud of them. I knew they should be proud of themselves.”

In leading Delphian to its third OSAA-sanction state championship in a sport or activity, Abu-eideh received an education of her own. Abu-eideh graduated from Delphian in 2014 and won a Class 2A/1A state championship with the Dragons that season in choir; the school shared it with Newberg-based Veritas. (The Dragons won the 1995 OSAA Class 1A state volleyball championship.)

“The first time I ever did cheer” coaching, Abu-eideh said, “was 10 weeks ago.”

Abu-eideh said she benefited from the guidance of David Douglas coaches Amber Cowgill and Mikyla Buder, who helped her craft the Dragons’ state routine. Abu-eideh, who works as a reenrollment officer at the school, credited much of her team’s success to “doing (moves) over and over and over again” in practices, which were held alongside the boys basketball team’s practices at the Delphian gymnasium. (The Dragons’ cheerleaders performed during boys basketball games this season.)

“I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to be my first team,” Abu-eideh said.

On the main stage in Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Dragons’ routine did not flow as smoothly as they hoped – Delphian lost its count on a basket toss stunt, momentarily throwing off the rhythm. Judges ultimately docked the Dragons three points for penalties. Aside from that slip, Harumi Sanchis said, her teammates kept their heads.

“In my opinion, I felt like we were ready,” she said. “We really wanted it. We all knew what we had to do.”

When the final results were announced, Sanchis and her teammates – freshmen McKenna Anderson, Alba Arguello, Riley Croman, Emer Dayton, Pruette Karl, Isabella Quintero and Sienna Schofield; sophomores Eva Drazkowski, Chiara Gentile, Andrea Prado and Agatha Sanchis; and juniors Maxine Anderson, Fernanda Careaga, Nicole Posselt and Ivy Ramos – held hands and closed their eyes. The welcome result was greeted with screams and tears of joy.

“So dramatic, but so beautiful,” Harumi Sanchis said.

Sanchis said that she intends to matriculate Hubbard College of Administration International in Los Angeles to study business and then move to Italy to study fashion after her graduation from Delphian. She will root from afar next season, as her sister and her teammates vie for a second consecutive state title.

“We really wanted it,” Sanchis said. “I wanted to end my year with a good season. I wanted to make a difference in how Delphi sees cheerleading.”


Other Yamhill County state cheer results

Delphian was not the only Yamhill County School participating in the 3A/2A/1A state cheer championships. Sheridan recorded a total score of 122.30 for 14th place, while Willamina (106.50) took 16th place.

Yamhill-Carlton did not place in Class 4A competition, but the Tigers received the Kim Hunter Positivity Award for sportsmanship and demeanor. The award included a $500 grant for the cheerleading program. Y-C cheerleader Olivia Cheser was the recipient of an academic scholarship awarded by the Oregon Cheerleading Coaches Association (OCCA).

Newberg won the Class 6A small squad state championship with a total score of 196.50 points. The Tigers bested Wilson (175.20), Lake Oswego (175.00) and Lakeridge (171.00) for their third consecutive state title in that division.