Mira Costa cheer squad wins CIF title, finishes 2nd in USA

The Mira Costa High School Cheer team at Walt Disney World in Florida, where they finished second in the nation among schools their size. Photo by Coach Travis Neese

by Mark McDermott 

The Mira Costa High School Cheer team has achieved two milestones unprecedented in school history. The team won the CIF championship on January 28, and two weeks later traveled to Disney World resort in Florida, and finished second in the “large varsity” division of the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship. 

Over 1,200 teams competed in Florida. It was MCHC’s first time medaling in the competition, the pinnacle of high school cheer in the nation, and the fifth time competing. MCHS finished higher than any of the 47 other teams from California. 

“That is a huge accomplishment,” said coach Travis Neese, who has coached MCHS Cheer for 23 years. 

The victories capped off a challenging four years for the seniors leading MCHS Cheer. They were part of a junior varsity squad that finished sixth in the nation in 2020, and then weeks later had their high school careers turned upside down when the global pandemic arrived. 

“Having to go through not even finishing your freshman year, not having a sophomore year at all —  practicing outside in the parking lot, and virtually, for their entire sophomore year,” Neese said. “And then junior year, having only half of the year. This senior class was truly special because their senior year and final year of high school was really their only true full year due to COVID and restrictions. So this really  is a huge accomplishment for them,  not just the titles, and doing well in competition, but really being a strong group of leaders supporting the other programs on campus and community events and not showing any of the effects of the pandemic. They’ve been strong, the entire team,  which has been for me as a coach better and more rewarding to see than a medal or trophy. Seeing them perseveres has been my greatest joy.” 

The team learned what it really meant to be spirit leaders, Neese said, during the dark days of the pandemic. They stayed together via Zoom, actually finding ways to keep practicing together —  even if sometimes the practices had more to do with keeping their own spirits up rather than honing their athletic skills. 

“We had to be creative and keep the students engaged, from hour long yoga and meditation sessions to just let’s go around the Zoom room and talk about what your goals are to keep you motivated, conditioning, and really just to be together for three days a week,” Neese said. “If nothing else, it got them engaged and away from TV or social media. It was just a time for us to be together and really kept everyone going, including myself, and the coaching staff.” 

Of the 10 seniors on the squad, nine were on that JV squad that began together as freshmen four years ago, including the four captains —  Jaden Less, Sam Larsen, Teah Harris, and Marguax Greely. Neese said the entire squad showed what spirit is really about.

“When you say spirit, it’s not just they are spirit leaders, it’s really their spirit that they exude —  when you’re on and off the field, in the classroom, on campus, throughout the community,” he said. “We always say that they’re the most visible student-athletes in every aspect. To be able to adapt, to be the ones who are always smiling. Aside from having to have the masks on, they may still perform and show everything in their face. So spirit truly does transcend.” ER 


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