SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - The varsity cheer squad at San Rafael High School is flying high off their win at nationals, marking the seventh national title the school has won since 2017.
Two weeks ago, the co-ed Varsity team was crowned at the USA Champs Nationals in Anaheim in the non-tumbling advanced division. The team went into finals in first place, held onto that ranking, and ended their final routine with zero deductions.
Head Coach Shawna Hoch said San Rafael Cheer is the only cheer team in the North Bay that competes in an advanced division. What makes the team even more unique is that none of the members had any cheer experience prior to joining the team.
"Kids are limitless and it’s really only us that put limits on them," Hoch said. "I think when we help realize their potential is limitless, they learn they can achieve anything they put their mind to."
Senior Iza Grijalva called the season a roller coaster of emotions, but said her fellow cheerleaders always support one another.
"We have really good friendships and bonds," Grijalva said. "We really work well together."
Hoch said the team reflects the community, diverse and resilient.
"A lot of our students come from the Canal Area and they don’t all have the resources that many other schools in Marin County have or most schools in Marin County are perceived to have," Hoch said. "We have a lot of kids working through mental health stuff, family challenges, evictions, deaths in the family, really serious stuff."
She and the other coaches work to ensure that when these kids cheer, they leave everything at the door.
"If we are struggling with something outside of cheer or outside of school there is no doubt your teammates will help you or Shawna or your coaches will help you," senior Caleigh Urban said.
Hoch said no student is turned away for their family’s inability to pay. The group holds fundraisers to ensure everyone has access to the cheer program.
The team is passing on their competitive spirit to the next generation of cheerleaders. The team is currently recruiting and will hold tryouts in April for next season.
"It’s like you really do have a family no matter what," Grijalva added.