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The City Journals

AISU Dragon cheer team claims state title for the second straight year

Mar 05, 2019 03:19PM ● By Carl Fauver

The cheer team at Murray’s American International School of Utah claimed a state title earlier this year, for the second season in a row. (Casey Stumph/AISU)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Despite losing a key team member to injury the night before their regional competition, Murray’s American International School of Utah (AISU) cheer squad advanced through that regional round and on to claim a state championship.

Technically they would not be considered “repeat” state champions, as the back-to-back titles were earned from different sanctioning bodies. But each time, they were the best in their classification.

“A year ago, we won the Utah state title in a competition sponsored by USA Cheer,” said Dragons head cheer coach Casey Stumph, who just completed her third season in the post. “That (2018) win advanced us to a national finals competition in California. But this year our squad was younger – and not as committed to an out-of-state trip – so we entered a competition sponsored by RC Competes.  We took the state title again; but this one does not include advancement to a national final.”

In the regional and state finals, AISU performed the same 2-minute dance and cheer routine. But their carefully choreographed routine was thrown for a loop the night before regionals.

“People often don’t realize cheer is a dangerous sport,” Stumph added. “During our dress rehearsal – the night before regionals – sophomore Allie Conder took a bad fall and suffered a concussion. She’s an awesome member of the team – she was even on it last year as a freshman. It was a shock to the whole team when she was put out of the competition.”

“Allie also sprained her neck in the fall and had to wear a neck brace,” AISU cheer team co-captain Trinity Vigil added. “She was super upset and we had to adjust our routine at the last minute. We were afraid it would tamper with our mindset. But Allie was still able to attend the regionals and finals. It made it a bit easier knowing she was there.”

Vigil is in her fourth year attending AISU, her third year on the cheer squad and her second year as a team captain.

“It’s been an honor being a team captain,” Vigil continued. “I will definitely be back out for the team next year. I think the cheer team has taught all of us how to work more effectively toward a goal, even if you are not necessarily the best of friends with everyone.  We’ve learned you can still work together for a common goal.”

After graduating from AISU, Vigil plans to pursue a career in a field many may never have heard of: animal-assisted therapy.  Wikipedia defines that as “an alternative or complementary type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional or cognitive functioning. Advocates state, animals can be useful for educational and motivational effectiveness for participants.”

Like Conder and Vigil, Andrew England was also a member of both AISU state championship cheer teams. Last year he was one of two males on the squad, while this season he was the only boy.

“We did have another boy out for this year’s team, but he quit after two weeks,” England said. “Sometimes it felt a little odd, because there are very few boys. But most of the time it was not uncomfortable. These past two years on the cheer team have made me a better person. It’s shown me how close people can get through teamwork. Participating has also kept me on track with my school work.”

A senior, England plans to attend the University of Southern Alabama, in Mobile, next fall.  

“I have some friends (attending AISU) from Alabama, who talked to me about the school, and I researched it,” England added. “I guess I am ready for a culture change. I also want to try out for their cheer team.”

“Our cheer team represents our Dragon spirit and brings our (AISU) community together,” said High School Director Abbey Wallace.  “The entire student body watched the state championship performance on video in their classrooms. It gives us all a real sense of pride that they have won the state championship two years in a row.”

In addition to entering state competitions, the cheer team also performs at Dragon boys and girls basketball and volleyball games. The squad is selected in May, practices sporadically through the summer and moves into a more rigorous practice schedule when school begins in the fall.

Head coach Stumph and assistant coach Stephanie Garcia have teamed together for three seasons now, with two state crowns to show for their efforts.

“We work really well together,” Stumph concluded. “Stephanie makes up the dance routines and finds the music. And I am good at yelling at kids and making them do what they need to do.”