Just like the New England Patriots, UConn Lady Huskies, Los Angeles Lakers, and Alabama Crimson Tide before them, there is a five time consecutive champion and a squad that has been undefeated in competition since 2015 sitting in a city of 53,221 in the heart of the Willamette Valley. The preceding facts describe the cheerleading dynasty that has been built by Courtney Marstall and the South Albany Redhawks, who have ran supreme as the queens of 5A for the last five years, setting the standard that has only been closely matched by 6A Westview, who have won four consecutive small coed championships at the 6A level.
2020 was another successful year for South Albany, who coasted to another 5A state championship, and continued to add to the dynasty that they have built under Coach Marstall. After another state title, three South Albany cheerleaders talked with Elite Oregon Girls about the dynasty they’ve built, their favorite memories, and the advice they’d give to young girls interested in cheerleading….
Being Part Of The Dynasty
When it comes to the ground of cheer and dance champions, South Albany is certainly on that level of success. Y’all have won four consecutive 5A cheer state championships and finished runner-up the year before that. In dance, y’all finished either state champion or runner-up in four of five years from 2013-17. How does it feel to be a member of such a successful program and how does it affect the expectations that are set?
Lyssa Marstall: “It’s an honor to be apart of such a successful program but to be able to say I’ve won state all four years of my high school cheer career is so rewarding. I only joined dance team my junior year and senior year yet I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. To be able to contribute my leadership and my knowledge and my time to the dance team has been also such a rewarding thing and being able to win 3rd place at state with brand new coaches and a completely new team was so rewarding as well.”
Katie Tracy: “Cheer and dance at South Albany is such an amazing program to be apart of. It’s an amazing and proud feeling for sure. Dance and cheer are definitely two underrated sports considering how hard we work. It’s never expected to win, but the end goal to always do our best and leave no regrets on the floor.”
Kara Marks: “I absolutely love being a member of the South Albany Cheer and Dance team. When you are apart of such successful program the expectations by your peers and fellow athletes are very high, but that’s the best part. It makes you wanna work so much harder so you can say that you were apart of that winning performance.”
The Importance Of Being A Team
In such a technical sport and one that has many members to a team, how important is team chemistry and bonding to your effectiveness on the mat?
Katie Tracy: “It’s very important to have chemistry throughout out both preamps cheer because you are catching and holding people up. Dance because you all have to dance together to make the routine fit. And we’re together every morning from 6:00-8:00am so you really need to love who your with because not a lot of us are morning people.”
Kara Marks: “Having a good bond with your teammates is so important because everyone is so vital and important to the team. Nothing can be done by just one person, you have to learn to trust each other and know if everyone does their part and if we all work together things will get accomplished. While we are on the mat for cheer we always are talking to each other while we are performing. We are encouraging each other and cheering each other on and it makes such a big difference for the better.”
Lyssa Marstall: “Cheerleading takes a certain mindset and drive when it comes to bonding with each other. People get dropped and hurt constantly during practice and on the comp mat. It’s so important that we have positive mindsets and have a relationship and bond as if we are family with each other on the mat at all times. So that when things go wrong we can brush it off and remember that we are team and a family and we love each other and that the stronger we are as a family the stronger we will compete together as a team.”
Running The Course Of The Season
Y’all compete in many competitions leading up to the state championships, which doesn’t include any outside of the OSAA or in other states. Besides the obvious goal of winning, what are your primary goals for each competition and how do those change throughout the season?
Kara Marks: “As a team, we like to set goals before each competition we want to put a clean and entertaining routine out there every single time so after the competition we can go back to practice and see what we can do better and how we can improve.”
Lyssa Marstall: “For cheerleading our goal is always to hit, and to hit means to land all your tumbling skills and hit all our stunts and if we hit we know that we can win. Every competition we try to give a better performance then we did the competition before. It’s all about getting better and growing so that when we get to state we can give our best performance possible.”
Katie Tracy: “Our primary goals of competitions is to raise our score from the competition before, and to leave everything on the floor or mat.”
Favorite Memories With South Albany
In your career thus far, you have competed in many competitions and performed many routines. What has been your favorite routine to perform and what is your favorite memory as a Redhawk thus far?
Lyssa Marstall: “My favorite memory as Redhawk would’ve been when our basketball team beat Parkrose and moved on to Gill for playoffs and everyone rushed the court and hugged the team! It was such a precious moment for our school, student body, and of course our boys basketball team!”
Kara Marks: “My favorite routine was the 2020 routine. It was the best season and as a senior it was so great knowing that we hit a perfect routine at state. My favorite memory as a Redhawk was knowing how many people in our school and community were behind us. The staff at South Albany and the students were always backing us up they always showed so much support to us.”
Advice To The Little Cheerleaders
Finally, cheer and dance are popular sports across many different levels. What type of advice would you provide to girls who dream of doing what you do now? How about those who are looking into joining the sport?
Kara Marks: “Some advice I would give is if you are unsure about it just try it! I didn’t do it my freshman year and I will always regret it, because when I tried out my sophomore year I fell in love with it. Some more advice is don’t give up things might not go how you want them too but that should make you wanna work even harder. And always keep a good attitude because the second you have a bad attitude it makes things hard for you and your teammates.”
Katie Tracy: “I advise girls or guys to stick it through the rough parts because it is so rewarding at the end but it is a lot of work, same with any sport. There will always be ups and downs in sports but you have an automatic friend group and family to always stick by your side, it’s an amazing special feeling!”
Lyssa Marstall: “My advice to anyone wanting to try Cheer or Dance, do it! It looks hard and trust me it is, but almost every person that walks into our team has zero experience with cheer and dance. We teach you everything you need to know, so if you’re scared about not knowing what to do I promise you that’s where we all started out too when we first joined. Don’t hold back from trying something that you’re interested in, especially with cheer and dance!”