Cheerleaders advance to national contest

Tony Parra

The Portales High School cheerleaders are on their way to Orlando, Fla., to bask in the warm weather — and in their success — en route to the National Cheerleading Competitions at Walt Disney World from Feb. 6-10.
The cheerleaders are out to discount the myth that cheerleaders are only dressed-up, pompom waiving fans on the sidelines of sports games. According to the cheerleaders it’s hard work.
The Lady Rams cheerleaders placed third out of four teams in the state in their division in Albuquerque last weekend.
“We learned our routine in a week and a half. We nailed it at state competitions,” senior cheerleader Ashlea Sink said. “After (the state competition) the community and definitely the school respects us more. We’re better than just high school cheerleaders.”
James Villanueva, a cheerleader for Eastern New Mexico University, said he accepted the job as Portales cheerleading coach after two other coaches quit.
“I’m excited, I’m still a little shocked,” Villanueva said. “The girls have worked really hard. They have gone through a lot of adversity with losing two coaches. It’s very rare for a town of this size to make it to nationals. It’s an honor for the school.”
The Portales cheerleaders attribute much of their success to Villanueva’s coaching.
“We haven’t been placing well until Jaime came,” senior cheerleader Nicole Degroot said. “He brings so much energy and he gives us confidence.”
Villanueva is performing a balancing act between Eastern cheerleading practices, classes and Portales cheerleading practices.
The cheerleaders will have extra duties during Christmas break. They cheer at both boys and girls basketball games and will be preparing for national cheerleading competition.
Senior cheerleader Beth Birnde has been cheerleading for three years. She became hooked when she saw her friends doing it, and now is a vital part of the squad.
“We have a brand new routine for nationals,” Birnde said. “I think we’ll do a lot better at nationals and we’ll be more confident.”
People can purchase team posters for $35 or an individual poster and team poster with their business or name on it for $50 by contacting the Portales cheerleaders. They are also asking for donations from people for an auction in January. The cost of the trip is going to be $10,000 for expenses such as plane tickets, hotel and food, Villanueva said.