UH rah!


POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If they'd lost, they would've had to drop the pompoms over their school emblem, and that was not an option for the University of Hawaii cheerleading squad.

“;We have so much pride in the H and our school,”; said George McGuire, a member of the squad for four years. “;We needed to make sure it didn't get covered up.”;

So the H remained visible to the end on “;RAH! Paula Abdul's Cheerleading Bowl,”; as the UH team won the MTV competition with a combination of athletic moves and stylish routines. Guys lifted girls, bodies flew—there were flips, spins, kicks, dance moves, mind-boggling balancing acts and human pyramids. The team even made a grand entrance on a surfboard. In the end viewers understood—this is a sport.

The UH squad was picked for the competition in New York City, along with teams from the universities of Arizona, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Montana and Miami University of Ohio. The squads had to create, choreograph and perform three routines during two 16-hour days of taping.

“;The long days were really tough,”; said Amanda Lucero, a squad member for five years. “;We took advantage of the breaks. Our coach always made sure we had water and snacks. He also had us lie down and relax our mind and body so we'd be ready for the routines.”;

The competition, which aired as a 90-minute special on Jan. 3, took host Abdul back to her roots. She was an L.A. Laker Girl before her pop music career took off (and she became an “;American Idol”; judge).

As the winner, the team will have a spread in American Cheerleader magazine and will go to MTV's Spring Break 2009.

Normally the squad competes in ESPN's national cheerleading competition, coach Mike Baker said. “;Usually in our competitions, we have to perform just one 2 1/2 -minute routine that we create and make adjustments to over the course of a year's time. The 'Cheerleading Bowl' pitted teams head to head doing unexpected challenges with elimination looming as the consequence for not executing well.”;

But the squad is accustomed to pressure, he said. “;They have a high focus level. The show was definitely form fit for our team.”;

The judges' regard for the team was obvious during the show. They especially noted the team's choreography, energy level and difficulty of the tricks. Choreographer Hi-Hat said she did a double take wondering whether one girl really was in the air with her foot behind her head, using no hands.

Judge Breanna Klingler, a dancer for the New Jersey Nets, said she loved the way the team took risks. “;All day you kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, wanting more.”;

The team did have a chance to relax a bit in Manhattan following the rigorous contest, taking a midnight stroll in Times Square. “;We walked around with the other teams, got some pizza. Everyone was so positive after the show,”; McGuire said.

The squad performs at UH football, men and women's basketball and women's volleyball games. Practices take an average of six to nine hours a week. Currently 12 full-tuition scholarships are available for squad members.

For Lucero the show was an “;opportunity of a lifetime.”; Although she can't make a career out of cheerleading, she believes the lessons she's learned will be with her always. “;The coach instills a lot of morals. We learn to live a healthy lifestyle, to eat well and not drink. It also instills a lot of discipline,”; she said. “;I never thought in a million years that I'd be given an opportunity to be on this show and meet Paula Abdul.”;

On that score: “;She's very personable,”; Lucero said. “;I felt like I'd known her forever, like she was my best friend.”;


The “;RAH!”; show may be downloaded and viewed at and will air again on MTV at 9 a.m. Monday.