By MEGAN MOSELEY
Tribune-Herald staff writer
KEAAU — Keaau High 15-member cheerleading squad brought home the school’s fifth league championship in school history Wednesday night.
As defending champions of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation cheerleading competition, the Keaau Cougars stole the show for a second year in a row with a 308.5 overall score at Koaia Gym. The Waiakea Warriors came in second with a 301.5 score and will travel to Honolulu on Nov. 16 with the Cougars to compete in the state’s cheerleading competition. Hilo High came in third place scoring 280 points, followed by the Kamehameha Warriors, who scored a total of 233.5 points.
Coach Tonya Baybayan marked it as one of the proudest moments of her decade-long experience as a Cougars cheerleading coach.
“I’m just so proud of them. They worked hard and really, really wanted it,” she said. “We’ve had our ups and downs this year, but they pulled through.”
With half the team being new to cheerleading competitions, assistant coach Jamie Yoneda described the announcement as “surreal.”
“Last year was the first time we’ve ever won a championship, and this is one of very few for the entire high school,” she said. “They did a great job.”
Cougars captain and senior Brianna Cadaoas was all smiles after hearing the news.
“It feels really good to hold down the title,” she said. “We’ve had to work for it. We’ve lost people and gained people this year so it’s been a battle.”
Iris McGuire, Keaau’s athletic director and the league cheer coordinator, assisted in the competition Wednesday and said she wasn’t surprised with the results.
“I have a lot of confidence in my team and kind of knew it would be one of the two teams. Either team could have won, they both did outstanding jobs,” she said. “I’ve seen these girls work hard every day. These girls were really committed and went the extra mile to get this huge accomplishment.”
Waiakea Warriors coach Lody Switzer was equally as proud for her team, commending them for their hard work throughout the season. Her daughter, Tessi Switzer, assisted in creating the Warriors’ routine for the competition and described it as a rewarding creative process.
“You start with the skill-set that they offer you, and try to pick something that means something to them so they feel the music and from there, just create,” she said. “It’s very satisfying to see all the hours you put in pay off.”
Both teams will travel to Honolulu on Nov. 16 for the HHSAA state championships.
Keaau Cougars: Brianna Cadaoas, Janystee Clemente, Kiana Akana, Daysha Alameda, Ellienne Alonzo, Charnalyn Crivello, Candace Castillo, Abigail Delarosa, Kahmell Tenorio, Maelin Tamashiro, Tabirtha Silva-Perreira, Christina Ulep, Anna Yoneda, Kailani Rhyss, Mikele Pokakaa.
Coach: Tonya Baybayan; assistant Coach/yumbling coach: Jamie Yoneda; volunteer coaches: Sarah Lipps and CJ Fukumoto.
Waiakea Warriors: Celeste Beam, Grace Fincher, Tihane Smith, Morgan Montibon, Alazae Furtado, Jade Cadaoas, Natasha Naehu, Alexis Dupre, Taylor Ayala-Malone, Ariana Ramo-Segovia, Dannyelle Leialoha, Jaci Parong, Kyla Nicolas, Kehau Ramos, Shaelynne Vallente, Torylee Castro
Coach: Lody Switzer; assistants: Tessi Switzer and Bronson Nishimura.