The idea was to balance spirit and competition.
That was Jessica Stoner’s objective in her first season as Cathedral High School’s cheerleading coach, and that objective was met to a high degree.
As Stoner saw it, that made 2021-2022 a strong season.
“I feel like it's been very successful,” Stoner said recently. “I've heard good feedback. I hope to continue to hear good feedback and just build off of it. That's my focus.”
Stoner, hired in the summer of 2021 to run a program for which she cheered from 1998-2002, said her primary objective entering fall of 2021 was clear:
To emphasize spirit and the importance of the cheerleader to the student body.
“We wanted to get that brought back,” she said. “We wanted to continue with the past, but with Covid the last two years, we wanted to regroup and refocus on why the cheerleaders are meant to be there –to bring school spirit and energy into the game and crowd and players. That was the main focus going in.
“We were able to bring lot of spirit back into the program and the school where the cheerleaders were looked upon and stood out. I constantly heard feedback from parents, students and faculty saying how great it was to see the cheerleaders at the game and assembly.
“It was nice to hear that because it wasn’t so competition focused.”
Stoner said the Irish accomplished that objective while also continuing to compete regionally and nationally. They did so in part because of a strong senior class that featured:
“They’re honestly the ones everyone looked up to,” Stoner said. “They looked up to them for leadership and guidance. It was really important this year to have those seniors come back, want to try out and be excited about the season – and be able to actually lead their class as cheerleaders for the program and the school.”
“We had some great leaders, girls who cheered all four years and girls who this was their first year cheering. It was a great group to come in as a coach and have the leadership on the team.”
While the Irish didn’t choose captains in ’21-22, Stoner said “a lot of those seniors stepped up as leaders. It was really nice to see them each individually be able to do that at some point. It didn't take a lot for me to ask them to do a lot. They really took charge at times when we needed them too, which was really nice.”
Irish Cheerleading represented and participated in the Irish’s Class 5A state championship football season and Class 4A state championship basketball season, moments that highlighted one of the most successful athletic seasons in school history.
“A lot of these girls have never even cheered basketball season because they were so focused on competition in the past; they've had a such an exceptional time doing it,” Stoner said.
Irish Cheerleading also competed regionally and nationally, which Stoner said she considered a valuable experience for the students.
“In the past, competition has been very focused and it has been something that these athletes see themselves doing,” Stoner said. “That’s awesome and we wanted to keep that, but I also wanted to make sure everyone knew coming in this year that we may or may not compete.
“We had the support and we had a great competition season. It wasn’t my thought coming into it, so it was very surprising and fulfilling to see us be able to do that this year.”
Stoner said she expects her second season to improve on her first.
“I'm really looking towards my juniors who will be seniors, sophomores who will be juniors and freshmen who will be sophomores to kind of continue to be open-minded and the changes that we've made to kind of continue on when we bring these new freshmen in,” Stoner said. “The classes got really close. I feel like we had a really inclusive environment.
“I'm looking at these girls for next year to just continue that on.”