Terrace cheer squad competing for state title this weekend

Alaya Butatao-Quang (upper left) and Maryana Ward (upper right) are lifted by their Mountlake Terrace cheer squad teammates at a recent practice. The squad will compete at the 2023 WIAA State Cheer Championships this week.

Once again the Mountlake Terrace Hawks cheer squad is reaching the highest of heights in cheer competition as the team is heading to the prep state championships for the seventh time in the past nine years.

The Hawks will be competing at the 2023 WIAA State Cheerleading Championships happening this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3 and 4, at Battle Ground High School. The team will take the floor on Saturday at 2:05 pm in the state tournament’s 3A Game Day Small division.

The eight-person Terrace squad is led by captains McKenna Gifford, Alaya Butatao-Quang and Savannah Jacobson; the team is hoping to make some memories and sway the judges on Saturday to close out their 2022-2023 competition season.

“We want to really do our best to impress everyone,” said Jacobson.

The squad will have less than three minutes to win over the judging panel and earn a podium spot in a division field of 10 teams, including the top three from last year’s 3A Game Day Small competition: Auburn Riverside, North Thurston and Gig Harbor.

But grabbing a state championship trophy, something that has eluded prior Mountlake Terrace cheer squads, isn’t necessarily the ultimate objective for this year’s Hawk team.

“Going to state for me means showingcasing all our hard work for the past year — all throughout summer, all the hours we put in through practice, literally all the blood, sweat, tears; and also finishing off my senior year,” said Butatao-Quang. “I’ve gone to state all my years (on the team) and I want to make this one really memorable. It’s my last performance and I want to create some memories with my team.”

Terrace cheer squads begin preparations for their competition season the previous summer — practicing together, attending cheer camp as a team, then continuing their workouts while meeting their obligations of leading the cheers at various Hawk games during the fall and winter prep sports seasons.

This year, Terrace’s three-minute competition performance was put together under the supervision of team coach Kristin Garza, but Gifford, Butatao-Quang and Jacobson did most of the planning.

“They have been huge,” Garza said of her team captains. “They created this routine with minimal help from me from start to finish.”

“If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where we would have been right now,” Garza continued.

Changes to the performance program are sometimes made right up to the time when the team takes to the floor during a competition in order “to make the routine better to wow the judges,” Jacobson said.

While presenting a “wow” routine is the top goal of the Hawk cheer squad, knowing that judges are critiquing their performance — and that state trophies are on the line – can be taxing on the team members.

“It’s a little nerve-racking before going on but it’s a lot of fun,” Jacobson noted. “And after, we are, ‘we just did that.’ And you feel good about it walking out.”

Garza credited the effort of the entire squad for reaching their pre-season goal of qualifying for the state championships.

“The team success goes to all of them,” Garza said. “I can only coach them — they have to do the rest. They have to work their hardest for that three minutes on the mat.”

“They worked so hard for this,” Garza concluded.

Battle Ground, a rural community outside of Vancouver, Washington, has hosted the WIAA State Cheerleading Championships each year since 2017 (with the exception of the 2021 tournament, which was canceled due to COVID-19). One-day tickets for this year’s championships are $11, or $7 for students with current ASB cards, seniors over 62 and members of the military. Competition begins at 5 pm Friday and 10 am Saturday.

— By Doug Petrovsky