The Saugus High School varsity cheerleading competition team took the stage on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23, at the Anaheim Convention Center for the 2019 USA Spirit Nationals championship.
In a competition that featured more than 200 teams from across the nation, the Centurions finished in first place in the large varsity advanced category.
The win comes on the heels of a semifinal finish at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando from Feb. 8-10 and a runner-up finish at the inaugural CIF-Southern Section cheerleading championships in January.
Despite reaching the semifinals in Orlando, the team was disappointed in their performance and knew they could do better.
They used that as fuel to push them at Nationals, and it worked.
“We kept saying that it was redemption for them because they didn’t perform to their best ability in Florida,” said Saugus head coach Candace Rogers. “They really wanted to end the best that they could and they really wanted to prove to themselves that they could do that and all the hard work was worth it for them.”
“We went to Anaheim and ever since Florida, all we wanted to do was hit our routine. Redemption,” said junior captain Emma Enright. “That’s what we did. So we were super excited about that.”
Saugus led the pack after Friday’s competition, carrying a 0.1 lead into Saturday ahead of Highland High School from Gilbert, Arizona.
However, Rogers and the rest of the coaching staff decided not to tell the team how close the score was, so not to let it get in their heads.
“Us coaches, we actually decided not to tell them how close the scores were, we didn’t want that to be their focus,” Rogers said. “We wanted their focus to be on the team and doing their job and not focused on score. We just said it was close.”
The Cents pulled out a flawless performance on Saturday to capture first place, capping off a memorable season for Saugus cheerleading.
The Cents had several top finishes this season dating back to November, when they finished first at the UCA Southern California Championship.
They also came in first at the USA Regional at University High School in December and at the UCA West Coast Championship in January.
“Starting off in the beginning we were all nervous because we wanted to make this year memorable and make history,” Enright said. “We got to the CIF Championship this year and we did super well, we placed second so that’s really big for Saugus.”
However, none of the past victories compared to sealing the win at Nationals.
“It was complete and utter shock and just joy. All of our mouths were just hanging with big eyes, jumping around and screaming,” four-year varsity cheerleader Alexa Aguilar said. “To end the year like that it was going out with a bang.”
The Cents also had a particular song they listened to all year while warming up: T.N.T. by AC/DC.
“That was our song this year. I don’t even know how it became our song, but while we were actually waiting to go out on the floor to compete in finals for USA Nationals this past weekend, we were singing acapella. All 20 of us, not good singers by any means, screaming at the top of our lungs, getting ourselves ready,” Aguilar said. “It’s just so funny. I don’t even know how that song came about, but it stuck with all of us.”
And just like the way the chorus starts: ‘Cause I’m T.N.T. I’m dynamite, T.N.T. and I’ll win the fight,’ Saugus was dynamite at Nationals.