Mill Valley cheerleaders make Shawnee proud in sunny San Diego
While frigid temperatures enveloped Shawnee during the holiday season, two dozen Mill Valley High School cheerleaders performed for thousands of people under a warm California sun.
The Shawnee cheer squad was one of 14 squads nationwide invited to perform at the Holiday Bowl half-time show, which took place in San Diego late last month.
The Holiday Bowl, an annual college football bowl game, took place on Dec. 27 at the Qualcomm Stadium.
In front of a roaring crowd of nearly 50,000 people, the girls performed flawless routines to old-school tunes such as Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
They also participated in the Holiday Bowl parade, waving cheerfully to thousands of college football fans, while walking through downtown San Diego.
“It was really awesome,” said Mill Valley sophomore Hannah Barnes. “The whole experience is something I can tell my kids about some day.”
Senior Maci Foerderer agrees.
“I already know that when I get older, I will look back on this trip as one of the highlights of my high school career,” she said.
The road to the Holiday Bowl was not an easy one.
After scoring an invite, the girls hosted a Taco Night fundraiser at Mill Valley, which also featured a silent auction and raffle.
They also spent a month rigorously practicing the cheer routines for the halftime show.
It marked the first time the Mill Valley cheer squad has ever been invited to the Holiday Bowl.
“It’s a really big deal,” said Stacey Moore, the Mill Valley head cheerleading coach. “A performance like this gets our school’s name out there and gives the girls a neat, memorable experience.”
Plus, it gave the girls an opportunity to work with professionals in the entertainment industry.
The day after the Holiday Bowl, the Mill Valley cheerleaders, along with the other squads, enjoyed a few master dance classes, taught by Justin Bieber’s tour choreographer and former backup dancers for Britney Spears and Michael Jackson.
The girls also enjoyed a little vacation out of the trip.
In the days after their performance, the cheerleaders went to the beach, shopped, played laser tag, and even went to Sea World.
But for most of the girls, the relaxation wasn’t even the best part of the trip.
It was definitely the performance.
After all, not many high school cheerleaders get to show off their moves in an NFL stadium.
“The spotlight was on us and I didn’t realize there would be fireworks going off while we performed, which was really cool,” said Barnes. “It was like a scene out of a movie.”
Foerderer added that the moment was truly surreal.
“At first, none of us were really nervous but then it hit us, ‘wow, this is really happening,’’ she said. “But we tried not to focus on it because we really just wanted to have fun.”
Another perk of the trip was the bond it created between squad members.
“Over the past four days, we all grew really close,” Foerderer said.
Plus, the weather wasn’t so bad either.
“It was literally 75 degrees the entire time, so it was a shock to come back to 16 degrees here,” Foerderer said, with a laugh.
Now that the girls are back, the vacation is over.
For the next month, they will be practicing for a cheerleading competition in early February.
The cheer squad has an impressive record they hope to uphold.
Earlier last month, they won a Superior 1 rating and the Judges Showmanship Award at the Best of the Midwest Competition.
And in November, they also won a Superior 1 rating and Outstanding Choreography Award at the Shawnee Mission Competition.