OAKLAND -- Some consider cheerleading a sport. Others see it as a performing art. Whatever the case, it is undeniably athletic and can become very competitive.
Surely, the Bishop O'Dowd High School cheerleaders already have proven their mettle by qualifying for Friday's JAMZ Schools National Cheerleading Championships at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
O'Dowd advanced to this competition by taking first place in show cheer at the JAMZ Kingdom Classic, held at Marine World in October. At that same competition, the girls placed second in show pom.
"These girls have put in numerous hours practicing arm drills, jumps and stunts on top of cheering through our entire football season and now, basketball season, while maintaining their academic standards," said cheer adviser Marguerite Green, who also is O'Dowd's assistant activities director and events coordinator.
As it is with academics and sports, O'Dowd maintains high standards for, and expectations of, its cheering squads. Still, this year's squad exceeded those expectations.
For sure, O'Dowd cheer squads have enjoyed past successes. Last year's team, for instance, placed ninth at the 2012 USA National Championships in Anaheim, leaving the current squad with a tough act to follow.
"We graduated three veterans who were very strong leaders," Green said. "We thought this year would be a rebuilding year, but our coach (Shanice Kelley, O'Dowd class of 2003) began the year with both junior varsity and varsity teams attending a summer cheer camp that led to the terrific bond that enabled us to perform so well."
Many view cheerleading as a glamorous activity. But it can become grueling given its physical demands and the constant need to learn and perfect routines. Of course, the girls have to keep up academically, too.
"Our season starts in June when they go to a camp, and it doesn't end until basketball finishes in March," Green said. "So they have one of the longest seasons of any athletic team."
In addition, a cheer season involves more than just practices and performing at games.
"As a community service the girls run the Junior Dragons Cheer Camp in summer for the younger girls in the community," Green said.
O'Dowd left for Las Vegas on Thursday after having brought up three girls from the junior varsity to round out the squad. O'Dowd's 2012-13 squad consists of seniors E'Senz McConico, Taylor West, Justice Moore and Aleah Frison, and juniors Elayna Thompson, Eryn Swarn, Christina Nwabozuh, Olivia Waters, and Deja Bishop. Moving up from junior varsity are sophomore Michelle Metzgar and freshmen Bianca Ortiz-Pallen and Kijika Kendall.