Hawaii All-Stars Win National Cheer Competition
By Rodney S. Yap
The Hawaii All-Stars returned from its first mainland competition on Monday with plenty to cheer about.
In fact, the 26-member team based in Kahului, finished one point shy of claiming two national titles over the weekend at the 17th Annual United Spirit Association All Star Championships in Anaheim, Calif. Not bad for a first-year team and its head coach who 15 months ago decided to return to cheerleading after a seven-year hiatus.
The Hawaii All-Stars’ Small Senior Level 4 team won first place, outscoring five other West teams. The Hawaii All-Stars led by four points after the first day and finished with a total of 73.88. Victory Cheer was second with a score of 72.81.
The Maui team received a warm welcome from family members and friends who greeted them at Kahului Airport. The girls carried the championship trophy, wearing huge smiles and their individual gold medals. They later posed for photos with the “Champion” banner.
“The girls worked really hard,” said head coach Kealii Molina, who opened tryouts to attend the USA All Star Championships last April.
“A lot of them cheer on their high school teams so they have to practice with their high school teams before meeting later in the evening for another two hours of practice.”
Established teams that annually compete on the big stage — like the two-day event that drew more than 4,500 cheerleaders to the Anaheim Convention Center — generally make the most noise and go home with the championship hardware.
“To come in as a brand new gym, in our first year, and ruffle people’s feathers like we did is pretty crazy,” said Molina, who knows first hand from coaching La Jolla High School and elite all-star teams from the San Diego area in the late ’90s through 2001.
The first-place Small Senior 4 team is made up of 16 crossover girls, representing four high schools from the Maui Interscholastic League. Six are members of the MIL champion Kamehameha Schools Maui, where Molina is also the head coach.
Molina said competing with only 16 out of a maximum of 20 put his team at a disadvantage. Level 4 cheerleaders are required to do a standing back tuck or layout. “Basically, just a backflip no hands,” the coach explained.
“When you have fewer girls like we did, you have to be super creative and thinking of how your going to max out your points. When you have vault-overs and three stunts, like we do, you don’t have enough people to catch. You run out of girls. It’s hard, but we did it.”
In addition, the Small Senior 4 team won “Best Choreography.”
The championship squad included Aileen Rodriguez, Ashlee Sawai, Breeann Joaquin, Caitlin Villarosa, Chalysse Young U’u, Elysse Phillips, Kayla Sniffen, Kealani Castro, Kennedy Casco, Maikela Takamiya, Mariah Constantino, Princess Misay, Tatiana Thompson, Ashlyn Ross, Giulianna Ippolito, and Kelcie “Malia” Molina.
All 26 members make up the Senior Level 3 team that finished runner-up, with less than a point separating first and second place. The five-judge panel had top-ranked Cheer Force from Simi Valley, Calif. ahead of Hawaii All-Stars, 68.62 to 68.53. The final arithmetic reflects 25% of your Day 1 score and 75% of your Day 2 score after deductions.
“On both days we beat Cheer Force with our raw scores, 69.07 to 68.30 the first day and 69.27 to 68.72 the second day,” said Molina, who was assisted veteran cheer coach Jo-Ann Yap. “Cheer Force had just won a big event in Florida the week before at the UCA All-Star Nationals. Unfortunately, bobbles in stunting and tumbling hurt us.
“I knew it was going to be a fight. I didn’t know we were going to be that high up and taking on one of the best teams in the country. I was happy, but I was bummed, too, because of the little bobbles in your routine. When you do it to yourself it’s even worse.”
For coming close, Molina is considering hoisting a banner at his Kahului gym that reads: “Never again 0.09.”
The Senior 3 team that finished second is made up of the 16 members from Senior 4 and Kellie Furtado, Naomi Ellison, Tiffany Tamashiro, Krislynn Saludares, Ciana Ruidas, Tiana Guerrero, Ilima Fisher, Taylor “Nani” Rabarra, Janessa Miguel and Jayna “Kalei” Kamalii.
“Up there I thought the girls were scared. I thought they were a little intimidated on the first day and they didn’t know that they could win. I think they thought it was impossible. Later on, after the competition, I asked them if anyone thought we could win and no-one raised their hand.”
Afterwards, Molina reminded the girls of their commitment, goals, and hard work over an 11-month span. Their success was by design not luck, the coach added.
“We didn’t go to finish second place and the proof was in the scores.”
Molina said the experience of competing for a USA All Star Championship was the reason he decided to start the Hawaii All-Stars and return to the sport of cheerleading.
“I wanted to give the kids here that opportunity to win nationals and to come out of nowhere against all those big-name teams.”