A-R-C-H-E-R: Cheerleading pilot program added to Archer Athletics led by award-winning coach


Photo credit: Grace Doyle

Members of the cheerleading team train on the back field, learning new skills and the basics of cheer. In the future, the team could support Archer athletes at their competitions as well as compete in competitions of their own. Speaking to the environment thus far, Director of Athletics Kim Smith said the team was enjoying themselves. “I’ve been out there, and it looks like they’re enjoying themselves, learning the skills and, you know, putting them together,” Smith said. “They’re meeting new friends and it seems like a positive, great outlet for them.”

By Grace Doyle, Sports Editor

Go, panthers, go! Archer Athletics debuts its newest addition: a cheerleading pilot program. Open to grades eight through 12, students from all experience levels have the opportunity to join the team. Led by fitness and wellness teacher Valeria Moncada, the initial small team serves as a jumping-off point for, potentially, a more robust program in the future.

Moncada came to Archer last year as a substitute fitness teacher. This year, with the opportunity to coach a sport, she developed Archer’s first cheer team. Moncada is from Ecuador, where she competed in cheerleading for 14 years. She was on the Ecuadorian national team at The Cheerleading Worlds and also won the Cheerleading World Championships.

“I just love the feeling of flipping your body or putting people in the air,” Moncada said. “I also like just being part of a team, encouraging each other and being part of that community.”

Director of Athletics, Kim Smith noted interest from students and spectators for a cheerleading program. Starting small, the program could develop into a much larger and more competitive team.

“Like anything that’s starting, it’s small, but I anticipate that it will build,” Smith said. “So, in the program, we’re working on learning the foundational skills for cheerleading, so that next year we’re hoping to move into a more competitive cheerleading team.”

Some of the team is made up of gymnasts, dancers or girls with cheer experience, while others are just interested in trying something new. During their after-school practices, three times a week, they focus on learning foundational cheerleading skills. They are working towards a future where they support Archer Athletics competitions as well as have competitions of their own.

“We’re just seeing how it goes and where it goes this year. They’re going to start practicing stunting, so that’s a piece that’s involved with competitive cheerleading,” Smith said. “But ultimately, I think through this program, the bigger picture is to provide support for athletes at their competitions and also provide competition for our cheerleading athletes. So they have the opportunity to bridge both of those platforms.”

Sophomore Lexi Wolf is a former gymnast and member of the inaugural cheer team. Wolf was looking to participate in an activity that connected a school sport with her previous experiences.

“I wanted to do something in school, but that relates to gymnastics,” Wolf said. “So I thought of the new cheerleading sport and thought I should try that out. And it’s more of a team sport that I can be on with everybody.”

Hoping to get move involvement, Moncada is looking to “showcase” the skills that her team has learned.

“For this year, we’re doing a pilot program, but I would like to have some type of performance … to showcase the hard work that we’re putting put in,” Moncada said. “We’re just trying it out and seeing how everything goes. But I think with the students that we have right now, I’ll be interested in putting a performance out there and then getting the program out there and then hopefully getting more students involved.”

Echoing the sentiment of future opportunities, Wolf spoke about her hopes for the future in terms of competition and overall involvement.

“I hope that we go to competitions,” Wolf said. “Actually, I feel like right now we’re still not ready, but once more people join I think that going to competitions together will be good for the future.”

Along with learning cheerleading skills, the program has also provided a space for students to make new friends. With eighth grade involved, cheerleading is offering a combined opportunity that is unique to Archer.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of people from different grades in high school, and also some eighth graders,” Wolf said. “And I’ve also learned a lot of new skills and also stunting. That has been really fun.”

Overall, the cheerleading pilot program is one stepping stone to what the athletics department hopes to be an opportunity for competition and school representation.

“These are athletes that want to represent their school and get involved in competition one day, and I’m hoping that it that it that it continues to build and gains interest,” Smith said. “These are athletes — this is not just your traditional on-the-sidelines cheerleading.”