Goals provide a roadmap to where you want to go. Expectations can make it harder to get there.
The Tualatin High School cheer team shrugged off any of those expectations, and the Timberwolves did something they haven’t done in over 20 years at the USA Nationals, held Feb. 24-26 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California — they won.
“We went in more excited than nervous and with a positive mindset, with the goal to just have fun,” team co-captain Amanda Fronczak said. “We wanted to be proud of our last performance as a team and do the best we could and leave it all on the mat. As a senior captain, I really tried to motivate our team and encourage everyone to have fun, because that’s when we do the best.”
The Wolves won the Coed Show Cheer Intermediate Division, comprising of 11 teams from across the United States who had qualified via regional competitions spread throughout.
From those regionals, roughly 60% of the competing teams earn a spot at nationals, leaving the cream of the proverbial crop to compete to be one of the nation’s top cheer teams.
Tualatin head coach Crystal Corona said the competition was one thing, but the preparation itself proved tricky enough.
“We only had one week to prepare because we were in the middle of our state season,” Corona said. “The rules for Oregon and Californica are very different, so we only had one week to transition from our Oregon routine … and we did it.”
At the national competition, teams perform a preliminary routine, from which three teams advance to the finals. The Timberwolves turned out to be one of those teams, much to the surprise of its team members, coaches and fans in attendance.
“We had absolutely no expectations, so I will definitely say that when we found out we were one of the finalists, it was a huge celebration,” Corona said. “For the team and all the parents that had traveled down there, we were just completely shocked.”
Not so shocked, however, as to distract them from the task at hand.
The Wolves still had their finals routine to perform, which entails a roughly two-and-a-half-minute performance and consists of various stunts, tumbling, dance and a cheer section that engages the crowd in attendance.
They nailed it, of course — and as a reward, they claimed the national championship.
“It really was great to see the girls hard work pay off,” Corona said. “It’s a tribute to the time the team puts in.”
And they do put in time.
Corona said that while most sports programs are three to four months, cheer season last for roughly 10 months.
Additionally, the sport is not just about the various competitions in which they compete. They also have cheer obligations at football and basketball games throughout the fall and winter.
“Everyone has been like, ‘Yeah, you won, now your season’s over,’” the coach said. “And it’s like, no, we still have basketball playoffs, and then we start our season all over again.”
Corona is in her second year coaching the Timberwolves. She’s already seen a significant change in the relationship between the team and coaching staff, and that difference has led to a heightened commitment and understanding of how things are done.
“It’s definitely been like a night-and-day situation,” Corona said. “Last year, the kids and the parents didn't really know who I was. This year, it has been a complete buy-in. They see the vision, trust the process, and understand the team culture that me and my coaching staff are trying to create and build, and it’s been a complete buy-in.”
Fronczak agreed and cited that growing relationship as a driving force behind their success.
“I think we’ve adapted to the new coaching staff and really gotten to build strong bonds with our coaches, and each other, which made the whole experience so much better,” she said. “Since we’re so close, we really perform for each other and are so supportive of one another, which I think sets us apart from other teams.”
Fronczak is one of just three seniors — with the others being Ava Spalding and Shivani Ufford — on this year’s team. Last year, Tualatin had nine seniors on the cheer team.
Corona said each of her seniors has been key to developing the standards necessary to succeed.
“These girls were here through coaching changes — through COVID, when (we) were cheering to empty stands — and they’ve really had to be patient to get to this point,” the coach said. “Their leadership has completely helped us, and the younger kids understand what it is that we're doing. If it wasn't for them, we definitely wouldn't have been as successful this season.”
And for those seniors, what could be a better way to go out?
“This was the perfect way to end this chapter in my life and go out with a bang,” Fronczak said. “I’ve been cheering for seven years, but this was by far the most fun I’ve had performing. It felt amazing to accomplish something that had not been done in 25 years and leave a legacy at Tualatin High School.”
Members of the Tualatin cheer team include: Alyssa Ferring, Amanda Fronczak, Andrea Valle, Ashlee Jackson, Ava Spalding, Brooke Paglinawan, Claire Davis, Elizabeth Kleps, Emily Interian, Emily Kleps, Hunter Smith, Jadyn Soll, Jessica Rosas, Madison Whitney, Natalie MacLean, Orlando Villa, Shelby Kraft, Sienna Pollock, Skyler Janes, Shivani Ufford, Taytum Hecker, Zoey Zuckerman, and Assistant Coach Mia Castillo.