In God we cheer
October 26, 2016
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Cathedral Catholic High School students and sisters Dee Santrach ‘19 and Grace Santrach ‘20 defied nerves and gravity to win their first World Championship for the highly acclaimed California All Star Cheerleading Company.
“On the third day, I had a great breakfast, but right before I felt faint because I was so nervous,” Grace said.
California All Star Cheerleading Company, a San Diego based athletic program now located in six locations, began in 2001, branching out to become one of the best cheerleading companies both in the region and in the world.
Possessing more than 400 national titles and awards for its experienced coaches and innovative choreography, as well as their current World Champion status, the team continues to go for the gold in their next season.
“We definitely want to build off of what we already have, since it’s a new season,” Dee said. “With six returners and a pretty new team, we’re just trying to train everybody. We want to have the mindset of going into Worlds and hitting our routine, rather than just winning it.”
With a new and improving team, the two sisters remain hopeful about achieving a future win due to the new athletes’ potential.
“I feel like our team could win Worlds again just because we’ve come so far from last year,” Grace said. “This year, we have a full year with our team, so I think we have better chances.”
World Championships is a competition for level five athletes only, the highest level aside from the collegiate level six. With the minimum age requirement being 12 years old, many young and talented athletes from around the world participate in the cheerleading competition, showcasing their skills to the audience and judges to achieve the title.
However, the Santrach sisters’ experience with competitive cheerleading began long before their victory. In 2011, the duo discovered their interest in cheer after multiple years in gymnastics.
“Our first team was a little youth team where we had to be 11 years old or younger,” Dee said. “That was our first time cheering and looking back, it was really rough. We were on the same team and went back again and again and we ended up being on our current team, Sparkles.”
Different levels and teams of cheerleading provides many opportunities for the California All Star athletes to find a suitable team for them. But, balancing the commitment of an elite athletic team with school priorities definitely ranks stressful for the freshman and sophomore girls.
“I’m practicing about six hours every day and Grace practices for three,” Dee said. “Since I’m in more weighted classes this year, I have a little more homework than other people. I work on my homework in the car or in the morning, but never really at home.”
Although time maintenance and priority balance remain a struggle many athletes and students face, the two sisters dedicate their strength and motivation to both their coaches and the CCHS faith community.
“Our coaches are our greatest inspirations, especially our coach, Coach Ries,” Grace said. “All of our coaches have their own back stories that they put into cheer. We learn a lot of life lessons.”
Their mission of assisting athletes to pursue a higher education while staying involved in their athletics allows their student athletes to balance the priorities of sports and school.
The head coach and choreographer for the California All Stars, Coach Robbi Sedillo, teaches at a championship level as both a dancer and cheerleader, constantly inspired by the accomplishments of the Sparkles team.
“I’m so glad that God has placed me in the position to be able to coach, mentor, inspire, but most of all love the girls,” Sedillo said. “When first joining later in the season, I didn’t know how it would go, nor did I ever have any expectations. I didn’t realize how much I could fall for the team.”
Similarly, Tannaz Kirichkow, the head owner of California All Stars, admires the determination of the athletes as they follow the examples set by their hardworking coaches, according to their online mission statement.
“We take pride in assisting our athletes in pursuing higher education while staying involved with their athletic passion,” Kirichkow said. “We were fueled by passion as coaches to develop the best athletes in the world – inside and outside of the gym.”
Likewise, the Christian values Kirichkow exemplifies set an influential example on her team, especially for Dee and Grace Santrach, who take their own religious skills and incorporate them into their daily practices.
By praying before and after practice, the team turns their focus to faith, allowing non-religious athletes an exposure to prayer and dedication to God.
“Usually on my teams, I’m the one who prays,” Dee said. “My coaches might have a rough day and they’ll say, ‘Hey Dee, can you pray for us?’ It’s usually the things I learn from school and I pray for them that God can put His hand over our team and over our outside lives.
“Having this experience at CCHS and learning how to pray and how to be close to God really helps us there too.”
The gym’s motto “Faith over Fear”, acknowledges California All Stars’ devotion to God. Likewise, their gym hashtag, #AllGloryGoesUp, shows the gratitude of the team, dedicating their win to the glory of God.
The California All Stars team strives to achieve many more awards in the future through the commitment of all athletes. Through faith and motivation, the athletes work together to accomplish great successes.
“We want to instill work ethic into our athletes, but more importantly, life lessons that would transcend into the rest of their lives,” Kirichkow said.