IBW Cheer Takes on Nationals


Cate Latimer (she/her), Editor

On February 24, IBW cheer took the stage at the national cheer competition in Anaheim, California. After going through regional and state competitions and submitting a competition video, IBW cheer earned their place on the stage where they competed and “scored higher than ever before,” according to Kathleen Vaught, IBW senior and a captain of the cheer team. 

Each year, Varsity hosts USA Spirit Nationals, an event “bringing together competitors from the cheerleading, song/pom, mascot and pep flag activities.” For IBW, attending was a big step towards increasing the competitiveness of the team.

“[Nationals] was really fun,” Vaught said. “Getting to perform our routine, we only get two minutes and 30 seconds on the mat, which is kind of scary. And it’s filmed live on television.”

 It was unlike anything the team had experienced before.

 With a more prominent judging panel and larger stage, “the experience was very different from competing in Oregon,” said Sebastian Porter, the IBW JV cheer captain. “Competing from the Oregon level to the California level, you get to see cheer teams that are insane…you got to learn and you got to be amazed.” Despite the nerves that come with performing in this new environment, IBW did well while making memories along the way. 

“Just the team bonding aspect of it was amazing,” Porter said. “I really liked going with my team knowing that our seniors Kathleen [Vaught] and Eva [Steinmetz] are getting to compete at nationals for the first time [and] knowing that I am getting to compete multiple times from junior to senior year.”

Their performance, available here, features the Guardians performing stunts the IBW community hasn’t seen before, with complex acrobatics and stunts. The video was reposted by the Portland Public Schools Instagram account, gaining support from students, staff and parents across the city. 

“I cannot describe how proud I was of our team just knowing that it took us a long way to get there. And we haven’t competed at nationals for about five years, so that was really exciting,” Porter said.

While many IBW students have seen the cheer team perform on the sidelines at football or basketball games, competition cheer is very different from cheering on the sidelines. “Cheering at games involves a lot of crowd leading,” Vaught said. “We’re using our poms. We’re getting people to look at us from the crowds. We’re riling people up if someone makes a basket or someone scores a touchdown.” The tricks are also simpler on the sidelines than in competition, with easier throws and tumbling. 

For competition cheer, teams go even more all out, leaving much less room for mistakes. “You are putting in your all,” Vaught said. “You’re doing the hardest things that we can do in terms of stunts, like baskets, like throwing someone really high, and like standing on one foot and yelling really loud and using our poms.” Porter agreed, saying “you have two minutes and 30 seconds to perform the best of the best.”

And, despite the increase in difficulty, the IBW cheer team isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon. With most of the team being underclassmen, the future looks bright and it’s likely the team will qualify for nationals again in future years. 

“My future is for us to have a strong program where everyone is feeling accepted,” Porter said. “I’m the only guy on the cheer team, and I’m the only black guy on the cheer team, and I’m hoping that we have more guys on the cheer team…it’s a very demanding sport and I want people to be on the team that wants to do it.”

With an overwhelmingly positive experience at nationals and a successful fall and winter of IBW cheer, the team is ready to take on whatever comes next, including spring tryouts the first week of May. 

“I do want to have a great time,” Porter said. “And I want us to be winning. I love my coaches, so we’re ready to dominate next season.”