Stunt team places 2nd in the state

Cal backs up NCS title by finishing as runners-up to state champion


Alex Gomes

The girls who serve as the bases throw up the flier during their EBAL clinching competition. Cal’s team went on to win the NCS Championship and finish second in the state, which is the best finish of any sport in the school’s almost 50-year history.

Stunt is a relatively new high school sport, with the first ever North Coast Section Championship for the sport being held only five years ago, in 2018.
Since then, Liberty High School has dominated, taking home the title each year. But on April 29, Cal High ended their reign by beating Liberty 18-17 in overtime to claim its first NCS title in stunt.
“Winning NCS was crazy,” junior Addison Crawford said. “I have been really confident with this team this year, but I didn’t expect to win the whole thing.”
Crawford and the rest of the Grizzlies probably weren’t expecting to reach the state finals and almost win the title either, but they nearly did.
No. 2 Cal lost to defending state champion and top seed Centennial 17-12 in the finals on May 13 in Glendale. The Grizzlies reached the finals by beating San Luis Obispo 20-1 and Oak Ridge 16-12.
“It feels amazing to be second because we worked so hard to get where we are,” freshman Addison Howard said.
The team said the finals were very emotional because eight seniors were competing for Cal for the last time.
“During our last quarter [of the finals] we all had tears streaming down our faces,” head coach head coach Bianca Lucatero said.
Though similar to cheer, stunt games include more flips and acrobatics and less dancing and cheers.
A stunt game is divided into four quarters: partner stunts, pyramids and tosses, jumps and tumbling, and team routine.
The last quarter lasts a minute and 30 seconds and is a combination of the first three. The others are each 30 seconds long.
At the beginning of a game, a coin toss determines which team will choose the level of difficulty that both teams must perform during the first quarter.
Levels range from 1-6 and possession of choice alternates from then on.
“So when you’re on the mat, you’re focusing on a lot of technique,” said Lucatero, who has coached the team since 2019 after working as cheer assistant coach from 2015-2018.
Different skills are worth more points than others. For example, during a lower level routine of jumps and tumbling, both teams will perform skills such as back handsprings, cartwheels, and running tucks.
These are worth less and aren’t as complex as standing tucks, running layouts, and standing back handspring tucks, which are seen if a higher level is selected.
“In the beginning of the season, we really pushed the higher levels during games because in the league that’s where we saw ourselves getting the points,” Lucatero said. “Then once we got to the North Coast Sections, we realized that our lower levels are just as strong if not stronger.”
Cal’s stunt team was able to execute lower level events in each quarter with near perfection. During the championship, they won almost every time a lower level was selected. This helped them gain points and win the NCS.
“We worked really hard,” freshman Addison Howard said. “We put in a lot of time and effort. I’m proud of everyone.”
Howard is a backspot and is in charge of helping the flyer keep their balance.
Backspots also know how to catch a flyer and prevent injury in case she falls.
The preparation for this level of competition went back to open gym practices starting early in November. Theses sessions are usually held in January, but the coaches decided that an earlier start would help the girls be better prepared for the season.
“Once the season started, we had a very strict rubric for tryouts,” Lucatero said. “We knew what we needed to make it work.”
A total of 28 girls were selected to be on the team, which practiced vigorously by training every day after school and often on the weekends as well.
“We did 15 to 18 hours of practice every single week,” Lucatero said. “Five to six days a week was a lot. The girls worked hard.”
The team went on to win 21 games and only one loss. But they faced much better competition in NCS and needed to work even harder.
“Going into the NCS, we practiced almost six days a week for the last three months,” junior Mckenna Reid said. “We do a lot outside of practice also, like stuff with the school psychologist and extra tumbling practices. We’re physically and mentally in the sport.”
Reid is a tumbler and flyer. She is responsible for jumping and flipping sequences as well as performing skills in the air. This is her third year on stunt and helped carry the team to victory during the championships.
This win was extremely significant because it broke Liberty High’s winning streak and gave the Grizzlies their first ever NCS stunt championship.
Teamwork is a very important part of stunt routines, as everyone on the floor needs to be in sync. It only takes one misstep to ruin the whole performance.
“I’m glad it happened this year with this team because this team is especially close,” Reid said.
me their first NCS Championship, but not without countless hours of practice and teamwork. Skill is important when it comes to sports, but what is even more impactful is work ethic and having a sisterly bond with the athletes you compete with.