California cheerleading team heads to world championships

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The California All Stars Black Ops, a cheerleading team based in Livermore, is now in Florida about to defend its title for first place in the 2018 Cheerleading Worlds competition. They are the only Bay Area team in their division to have made it this far.

And their coach Neda Emamjomeh, 32, of Walnut Creek thinks her team has a chance of winning for a third time.

"We are known for our elite stunting," she told KTVU this week before heading off to the three-day competition that begins on Saturday. "We put out the best stunt sequences and specialty tumbling." 

The cheerleaders come from all over the region and attend a variety of schools. One of her cheerleaders is Drake Johnson, who made news this week for a completely unrelated reason. The Marina High School cheerleader tweeted that he was accepted to Harvard University, prompting a former member of the Texas state board of education to ask if he got admitted on merit "or quota."

Drake is biracial.

He's also the valedictorian and president of his student body, along with being a world cheerleading champion, which he listed off on Twitter,  calmly listing his accomplishments. "I would think merit," read part of his Tweet. The story garnered national attention.

Drake's a senior at his Monterey County high school. But the average age of a cheerleader on the Cali Black Ops team is 15 or 16 years old. But there are athletes as young as 12 and as old as 19 on the team. Many of the teens are homeschooled, Emamjomeh said, so that they can have a flexible schedule to devote to their sport. The dedication pays off. The Cali Black Ops team won the world championship before in 2013 and 2017.

As to the Cali Black Op's secret for success?

"There is no secret," Emamjomeh said. "It's just training hard and practicing. These athletes are dedicating their entire adolescent life to being the very best.