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Local cheerleaders win big at national competition
cheer pic1
Local cheerleaders (left to right) Kylie Harvey, Alex Raposo, Mackenzie Shamgochian and Marilena Rivera show off their splits during practice at Starstruck studios in Modesto. The teens were part of a cheer team that won first place at the JAMZ All-Star Nationals in Las Vegas last month. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

For five local teens cheerleading is serious business. The group, which includes cheerleaders from both Turlock and Pitman high schools, showcased their dedication and skill at a national competition last month and came away champions.

Mackenzie Shamgochian, a sophomore at Turlock High, Alex Raposo, a freshman at Pitman High, Marilena Rivera, a sophomore at Turlock High, Kylie Harvey, a junior at Pitman, and Brooke Gioletti, a senior at Pitman, are part of a competitive cheer team from Starstruck studios in Modesto that competed at the JAMZ All-Star Nationals in Las Vegas.

Their national win came after months of preparation and earning a qualifying score at a regional competition — a very different environment than cheering on a high school squad, said the girls.

“Cheering at a game is so low key,” said Harvey. “If you mess up it’s okay; it’s just your friends.”

“If you mess up at nationals, you feel like crying,” said Rivera.

While all the girls agreed that competing in national cheer events is far more stressful than rooting for the home team at high school games, the payoff is worth it.

What does it take to compete at the national level in cheer? Tumbling, arm strength, and courage to get up in front of a crowd of people and perform, were a few attributes the local girls listed as a requirement for cheering at the next level.

“It takes a lot of skill,” said Rivera.

“And time, effort and dedication,” added Harvey.

The Starstruck team practices five hours a week and travels all around the Western United States competing.

“(Competitive cheer) expands so much more talent than high school cheer shows,” said Starstruck head coach Natalie Manrique.

All the girls said they plan to continue competitive cheer through high school and on into the college level.