Cheer squad brings change

You may have heard it blaring through the speakers across Corsair Stadium this fall as the football team scored another touchdown. All great colleges and universities have a memorable fight song, and now Santa Monica College will finally join the ranks.

Jessie Moorehead, head coach of SMC’s cheer squad, was the innovator behind the creation of the song.

“It seems to be catching wind, and everybody seems to be loving it,” Moorehead said. “It’s that something special that I think every school needs — a fight song, a dynamic, a tradition.”

A greater connection between students, parents and faculty is what Moorehead had in mind when designing the song. The song features SMC cheers along with uptempo bits from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack, appropriately chosen for the Corsairs.

“The best part for me was being on the sidelines and hearing the football players say, ‘Man, let’s get that song played again,’” Moorehead said. “It made a difference. It was something special. It’s those little things along the way that, as a coach, you’ve just got to trust your gut that you’re going to make a difference.”

Designing a fight song is not the only thing that Moorehead is hoping to bring to the cheer program. In her first year as head coach at SMC, she said she has big plans for the cheer squad, and has taken over running the SMC athletics website.

Moorehead arrived from Glendale Community College after they shut down their cheer program this past year due to budget cuts. She was hired late in the summer, reducing the time she usually has to prepare her team for the upcoming season.

“I love the school; I love the department,” she said. “Everything has been a blessing. I genuinely feel like I was meant to be here.”

One major event that Moorehead is preparing the team for is the All-Star Cheer and Dance Competition, which will be held on March 2 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. and televised on ESPN.

With football season over and basketball season just barely getting underway, practice sessions have turned into preparation for the upcoming competition.

It will be a daunting challenge for SMC to be competing against bigger, four-year university teams that have been together for much longer, but the squad is feeling up to the task.

“Our main goal is to get out to Florida, compete against these amazing teams that have programs that have been established for many years, and try to make finals,” Moorehead said. “If we can walk doing that, then we know we’ve done what we needed to do.”

Preparing and devising routines for the competition is something that Moorehead said she and her team are looking forward to.

“I think the skills and the planning for any sport starts from the very beginning,” she said. “You do drills and perfect skills, and once you get there, you go into competition.”

One of the aspects that goes into formulating a routine is choosing the right type of music.

“In previous years, I had input from the students, and that way, they felt connected with the routine,” Moorehead said. “It was something they wanted to hear.”

With SMC being in such close proximity to the beach, one of the things Moorehead has looked to incorporate is beach-themed music.

“We just take whatever songs we want, and we can mix them up together and make it all work,” said SMC freshman and cheer squad member Alyssa Laing. “Our routine music is usually a mash-up of different songs.”

Sometimes the music follows a particular theme in which all the songs used in a routine contain a common element, and songs come from a wide range of musical genres.

“It ranges from hip-hop music to country music to all sorts of things,” said Laing.

Laing, who has been involved with cheerleading since her freshman year in high school and is in her first semester with SMC’s team, was not able to participate this year due to a torn meniscus suffered during tumbling.

However, she was able to make a speedy recovery in time to try out for the team, and has been thrilled with the direction the program is going.

“The competition we’re going to in Florida is a really big deal,” said Laing. “We’ve finished our bid tape, and we’re working on our routine now.”

A big part of what Moorehead is hoping to accomplish is to transform SMC’s team into the top-performing cheer program in the area and to attract potential recruits such as Laing.

“Kids are going to want to travel distances to be here,” said Moorehead. “When I was at my previous college, I had kids traveling distances to be part of my program.”

Adding to the allure of the program is the beachside front that Moorehead described as “an ideal location,” as well as SMC’s friendly and welcoming environment.

“I’m excited for the program and excited to be a part of the school,” said Moorehead. “I’m finally at a location where I feel like I belong.”

Although still early, the effect that Moorehead has had on the program is already becoming noticeable.

“It’s been a blast; it was awesome getting to go out there and perform and just hear all the people say how the program is growing so much,” said Laing. “It’s really an honor to be here with them.”