The cheerleaders at Sequoia Pathway Academy have been hard at work since the beginning of the semester perfecting their sideline dances, cheers and stunting while preparing for their first season in the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Head coach Patricia Torbert would normally have her team ready by April, and they would spend the summer training and bonding. However, COVID-19 threw a wrench in those plans.
“That set us back a lot this year,” Torbert said. “But it’s set every team back, so we’re all kind of on the same playing field right now which is nice. … I’m optimistic, I’m not worried about it.”
All the girls on Torbert’s team bring something to the table, so instead of singling out a captain, Torbert chose instead to appoint a weekly team leader as a reward for good performance.
One of those leaders is Gabby Stone, a ninth grader at Sequoia and a member of the cheer team.
“Coach Patty is very uplifting and she’s trying her hardest to make sure we’re doing our best,” Gabby said. “She’s very understanding and the girls have been working so hard since last year to really give her good things to say about cheer this year.”
When asked if she would continue with cheer all four years of high school, Stone’s answer was an energetic, “Absolutely.”
Torbert, in her second season at Pathway, feels the same about her team. A high school cheerleader, dancer and performer, she graduated college with a degree in dance education and a passion for cheer — which comes out in her work with her team.
“I really like the connection I have with my athletes,” she said. “I think it’s nice to have, at this age especially, some kind of role model or someone they can talk to. It’s more than just the sport, it’s also the personal part of it as well, getting to know the kids and the athletes and their families. That’s what I really love, I like getting to know each individual child.”
This year is the first time the cheer team has been separated between junior high and high school, as the schools entered the AIA. Tryouts were wrapped up before school kicked off, but Torbert says there may be a few stragglers who still join. The girls are obviously gearing up for competition, but Torbert also wants the girls to remember to have fun.
“My goal this year is to make sure that we’re training properly, the girls are having a good time and we’re just building up the community at the school,” Torbert said. “I think that’s important right now with the way everything has been going, we need some positivity.”