Combining cheer, song to create new Pep Squad at Sunny Hills is such a great idea that I even auditioned for the team


Sophomore Sydnee Tallant records the new Pep Squad routine on video May 6 as part of her audition application to join a combined cheer and song team at Sunny Hills.

Sydnee Tallant, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

The theater lights shine brightly and the music cues.

Backstage, the dancers stretch anxiously before their routine.

The audience roars with excitement to greet these performers.

I have always had a passion for participating in environments like this. 

Dance has always been one of my favorite activities, but unfortunately, I could not continue my dance lessons entering my first year of high school. Luckily, I found another opportunity to perform through the Sunny Hills cheerleading program.

I thankfully made the cut as an incoming freshman during the 2018-2019 school year and had tons of fun preparing for routines and performing them. But before I could start cheering, I had to attend a summer cheer camp at the Great Wolf Lodge Hotel — that was where I saw another school’s song team practice.

Fascinated by the choreography, I remember wishing that our school had a squad like that, too.

Unlike cheer teams that develop more stunting, tumbling and cheer motion techniques, these folks focus on dance techniques such as kicks, pirouettes and leaps. 

These teams do not include stunting like cheer, but they also perform with pom poms. 

As a sophomore in the 2019-2020 school year, I decided to give cheer a break anticipating that my classes would become more difficult and would demand more of my time. 

During this time away, I came to the conclusion that I preferred the stage over the injury-inducing mat — dance was better than cheer.

I thought my high school experience with the cheer team was over until I saw an online post from the @sunnyhillspepsquad on April 24. 

At first, I was confused because the original dance department account had changed its name to Sunny Hills Pep Squad, and the profile picture was also different. 

As I looked more into the post, I read that the SH Dance department instructor, Leiana Volen,and her assistant, Jen Maletto, would be taking over the cheer program, and, to my excitement, I saw the program would also include a new song team, which put a huge smile on my face.

A cheer team would still exist, but now our high school would have two squads — song and cheer — now combined under the label, “Pep Squad.”

Tryouts for both teams were held virtually May 6-8. Participants completed an application with a photo of themselves, past dance and cheer experiences and their answers to meaningful questions such as, “Why do you want to be a member of the newly revamped Pep Squad?”

According to the May 6 audition requirements posted on the Pep Squad tryouts Google Classroom, applicants like me had to learn a cheer and dance technique combo, record themselves perform the routine on video and submit it to the Google Classroom tryout class by 4 p.m. 

Those who passed received an email on May 9 indicating that they made it to the final round, which consisted of a virtual interview on May 11 with the coaches. By passing this interview round, participants would successfully make the final cut.

The final list of selected team members was recently posted on the Pep Squad tryout Google Classroom and on the Sunny Hills Pep Squad Instagram pages. 

Through this experience, I know that the cheer and song teams will be a huge success because the dance coaches always put in 100 percent effort when it comes to choreography and performances.

The skills are much more dance-like compared to cheer, and it is something I will work on and learn over time. I know both groups will do amazing this school year, and I am very excited to see how the Pep Squad will perform at assemblies in this upcoming school year.