“Cheer” flies into a new season of rivalry and setbacks



Daytona determines who will be the best between the heated rivalry of Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College.

A not so cheerful season of “Cheer” tumbles into the rivalry between Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College. All year, the teams train for one big competition leading into one question every year: Who will get to run into the ocean at Daytona?

The release of season one of the docuseries, directed by Greg Whiteley, came out on January 8, 2020. Getting the inside look at what Navarro College is most known for, their cheerleading team shows how this squad has won fourteen national championships since 2000. Focusing on the lives of cheerleaders, Gabi Butler, Morgan Simianer, Lexi Brumback, La’Darius Marshall, and Jerry Harris shows how Navarro College Bulldogs climbed their way to the top of the pyramid.

“We have so many different kinds of people, but we all want the same thing. The feeling of going out on the floor and performing that two and a half minute routine,” Navarro cheerleader, Gabi Butler, stated.

Every year, the cheerleading teams work up to one big competition held in Daytona where a team is crowned national champions. It is what each cheerleader dreams of winning. It is a big honor to compete at Daytona and let alone win. Once a winner is crowned, the team runs into the ocean as a celebration and it proves that they are number one.

“You’re not allowed to touch the water unless you earn it. Only champions go in that water. If you want to go in that water, you better hit and win. You get to run and hold your team’s hand. It is such a rewarding feeling. I think it actually makes winning that much more special. You feel like a champion. You’re soaked like a champion. You’re a champion,” assistant coach, Kapena Kea, said.

Ever since the first season came out, the stars of the show have had an increase in following on social media and are making it big in the Hollywood world. Leading into season two, the athletes’ practice time interfered with scheduling interviews in early 2020. Meanwhile, Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC), 2019 runner-ups, and Navarro’s biggest competition continued to put in the hours and focus on redemption.

“We don’t go and get Instagram people. Those are the hardest people to coach. I don’t need the most famous people in the world, so don’t come to the Valley just because you want to be famous. Come because you want to be the best,” TVCC head coach Vontae Johnson explained.

Noticing how both teams changed their routines since the outcome of Daytona 2019 impacted the skill level of both teams. For example, Navarro took the money they received from The Ellen Degeneres Show to buy a stage to practice on as TVCC worked their hardest with what they had to improve. It almost felt like the outcome of season one of the docuseries caused Navarro to have a much higher advantage than TVCC. Watching this unfairness led the viewers to question who to root for.

“I think my life would’ve been different if I didn’t go to the gym to see what it was like to be a cheerleader. I love my team. I love the ones I coached. I’ll never want to replace them. You just get this overwhelming feeling that they’re all your family,” Vontae Johnson, described.

With months of training and perfecting their routines, Covid came into the picture and all that hard work ended up going to waste. Everything was shut down and you could feel nothing but sorrow for these athletes. This led to a big shift for both teams. With members of both community colleges leaving and new members joining the mat caused a change of pace for the competition.

“We cried for the whole entire night. I didn’t really sleep at all. And then went into practice, turned in my uniforms, and that was it. That was the end of my cheerleading career. I feel like nothing in this world is safe. Anything can be gone in the blink of an eye because you literally never know what could happen,” retired Navarro cheerleader, Morgan Simianer, explained.

With Covid still going on, Daytona was postponed to 2021. Getting back into shape and hitting the reset button had both pros and cons. With new athletes joining the mat, the pyramid had to be rebuilt as they started on their long journey to Daytona. This new start seemed refreshing at first, but Navarro hit a roadblock with the breaking news of the Jerry Harris scandal. Ever since season one of cheer, Harris has been a big hit with his great personality and contagious laughter. Little did everyone know that it was just a mask and far from the truth. Harris was charged with “federal child pornography sex charges”. This news took a big toll on the team as they felt completely blindsided for if Harris is convicted, he will spend a minimum of 15 years in jail. The directors of “Cheer” decided to spend an episode talking to the victims and alliances to Jerry about the situation in season two episode five called “Jerry”.

“I was here in my room when I got the call about Jerry. And immediately my heart completely sank. I honestly thought I was living in a bad dream. I literally couldn’t wrap my head around any of that. I felt like someone had just, like, died. I completely broke down. I was screaming and crying at the same time,” Gabi Butler expressed with tears rolling down her face.

This was just the beginning of Navarro’s downfall. In the middle of the cheer season, head coach Monica Aldama joined the twenty-ninth season of Dancing With the Stars. This was another hardship for the team because Kailee Peppers stepped in as a coach for Aldama which caused a rift in the team. Not having a coach that was experienced and liable allowed some weakness to show in Navarro’s performance.

“Most of these college teams are coached by male coaches. It takes a type-A personality to reach the top of this industry. You’ve gotta be somebody who is super driven, super meticulous, and very passionate. Monica is all of those things. She knows how to produce. She is a beast,” Brad Habermel, co-owner of cheer athletics, justified.

As Navarro tried to figure their personal lives out, TVCC continued to perfect their routines and stay focused on winning the national championship. The only way they knew they could beat Navarro was to perfect every single little detail on the mat. Although it took hours of practice and not giving up, it all came down to competition day.

“I like the routine. Are there some spots that I think are not as visually good as other spots? Yeah. It’s probably stuff that people won’t notice, but I would feel so dumb and so bad for the kids if it was something that I had been looking at and thinking, ‘Man, I want to play with that and move it around,’ and then it was a comment on the score sheet,” TVCC assistant coach, Khris Franklin, stated.

Both teams have been waiting for this moment, but only one team could win. With a difference of 0.1584, Trinity Valley Community College took off into the ocean, for they won the national championship of 2021 with a score of 98.2292 and Navarro scoring a 98.0708. As devastating as the loss was for Navarro, the rivalry between the teams only grows stronger as there are plenty of national championships to come. It just comes down to who wants it more and who will put in the work for the upcoming season.

“I mean, I hate to lose, but the feeling of losing, that’s a motivation too, because you can remember that feeling of disappointment that you don’t want to experience again. It’s just all about the feelings, that adrenaline, that dopamine hit that you get when you actually succeed in something. Those feelings, that rush, that’s what we all work so hard for. That’s cheerleading,” Monica Aldama asserted.