School spirit was in full force Saturday at Tingley Coliseum. The Warriors cheer squad and dance team traveled to Albuquerque for the annual Spirit Hope Challenge. The cheer squad came home with a second-place trophy in the Small Group Game Day category and the Dance team took second in the Jazz category and third in the Pom category.
“We’re gonna’ do pretty good today,” head coach Rhiannon Ross said before the team competed. “The girls have been working so hard, particularly with their stunting. We’ve gotten to a pretty confident place where they land it every single time. This is going to be a lot of fun and Socorro is bringing our hometown spirit.”
A total of 39 schools and dance studios participated at the event in 20 distinct categories. The competition floor was set up the day before the challenge. A giant black curtain at the center of the stadium separated the practice and performance sides. The south side had mats for dancers and cheer teams to warm up with the north side having the two stages.
A flat black mat was where the dance contestants, from singles to group routines, performed to the west side crowd. A padded blue mat was where the cheer teams performed to the east crowd.
Sandi Scripter is the competition director for the event and has been running it all for 10 years. She previously cheered at Hope Christian High School. She also cheered in college at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, then coached at UNM for 15 years.
“I’ve been working on this since August,” she said. “I’ll tell you what. It’s been two years and with the fans it’s great for the teams to have a small snapshot at normalcy. They can have their people here to support them. It is also great preparation for them going into state.”
Speaking of Hope Christian, several members of the coaching staff and some players were volunteering to help pull off the competition. From concessions to preparation to seating, the school has been helping from the beginning. Hope head dance coach Ashley Nix has been coaching at the school for 12 years.
“This is a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s great to see all the athletes from around the state perform. As one of the larger state events, a lot of teams get to practice what they hope will be their state routines. The only challenge is trying to manage all of the performers and making sure we are able to stay on schedule.”
In order to qualify for the state competition in March, teams need to have at least two NMAA sanctioned competitions under their belt. Coach Ross eyed the Spirit Hope competition as it is one of the larger events heading into state. The Warriors team came in hyped up to show off what they got.
“We’re super excited to be here,” Breann Wheeler said. “It’s a big deal for us. Cheering with this team has been one of the best experiences.”
“I am so nervous,” Cadence Ortega added. “This is a big deal for us as seniors because we have never competed before. Having cheered since freshman year this is really exciting for all of us.”
Going up against teams with over 20 members on their squads, the group of 10 did not disappoint. The athletes included Madelyn Romero, Cadence Ortega, Breann Wheeler, Mya Gonzalez, Najiah Lucero, Emily Ruiz, Kaitlynn Siefert, Joaan Paz, Justine Chavez, Karen Navrotsky.
“I am very confident this team is going to make it to state,” Ross said. “The progress that they have made this season has been unbelievable.”