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Cheering to the end

on November 19, 2009

The Richmond High football team was getting slammed 42-0 in the last quarter of its game against Pinole Valley. The Varsity cheer team stood in position looking at the field, hands in the pockets of their matching jackets, trying to hold their stoic poses in the chilly air. Then they turned to face the nearly empty stands and broke into a cheer.

“Let’s get that ball back, de-fense, attack!” they yelled to their team, flinging their arms and legs around in synchronization.

Being a cheerleader at Richmond High isn’t the coveted position television shows like Glee would have you believe. Students say not many girls in school are clamoring to wear the red white and blue of the Richmond Oilers.

To make the team, cheerleaders have to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and have good attendance and disciplinary records. Coach Vicki Tukeva also looks for enthusiasm, a must when cheering on a team with a losing record and a fair-weather fan base.

“At times, it’s like really weird cause it’s like you’re cheering to nobody. But we’re just here to cheer on the team,” said junior varsity cheerleader Maria Luna, a junior.

Some became cheerleaders because they like watching football, and some want to gain confidence by performing in front of a crowd. Some just want to meet new people. Like any good cheerleaders, they can even find the silver lining in a game without an audience.

“It’s sad, but then, if we make a mistake then we won’t be embarrassed that we made a mistake. So, it’s all good,” said junior varsity member Angela Latakoon, a sophomore.

The empty stands that night in Pinole are in part because it’s an away game and it’s hard for high-schoolers to find rides. But the cheerleaders say there’s not an overwhelming amount of school spirit at Richmond High anyway.

“I guess because we don’t really win a lot of games, they don’t want to support us, but it’s not about winning or not – it’s about playing and having fun,” said Carla Portillo, a junior.

It’s a message the team would have to spread on its own if it didn’t have the cheer squad.

“They’re always very appreciative,” Coach Tukeva said of the football players. “They feel like they have some support in their corner.”

The Oilers ended the season with a record of 3 wins and 7 losses. The pummeling by Pinole Valley marked the last game for both senior players and cheerleaders, but nobody on the cheer team shed tears over the loss or even looked upset.

“We are proud of you, yeah, we are proud of you!” the cheerleaders shouted, facing the team rather than the stands, as the Oilers lined up to shake the hands of the winning Pinole Valley High team.

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