Head to a Haslet Eaton basketball game, and you’ll get to see one of the best Class 5A teams in the entire state.
If that statement leaves you a bit confused, you probably assumed this means the basketball team. But in fact, I’m referring to another team on the court — the cheer squad.
The Eaton Eagles cheer team recently finished third in 5A Division I at the UIL Spirit competition. A feat impressive on its own accord, considering that three years ago the fledgling school had all the tradition of a five-star Taco Bell menu — that is to say, none.
A group of young ladies, some from Justin Northwest, others from Byron Nelson and a few moving up from middle school, were charged with laying the foundation for Eaton spirit. Senior co-captains Emma Renteria and Sydney Childress were among them.
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“It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it was fun getting to make all these new traditions and cheers and new things for the entire school to participate in,” Renteria said. “It was just an amazing experience that went into that.”
Pooling together things they’d learned and liked over the years at various stages of their cheer careers, the group went to work.
“We could create our own tradition and bring this to the school and establish our identity,” Childress said. “It was a really cool opportunity for us.”
I felt my heart drop when they got to the top five and still hadn’t called our name. I was on the edge of my seat. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing it felt. It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.
Eaton cheerleader Emma Renteria, on her team’s bronze-medal showing at the UIL Spirit competition
Coincidentally, it also happened to be the first year UIL hosted its Spirit competition for cheer squads. It had been rumored and clamored for in the cheer community, and finally became reality.
“It really kind of sheds some light on what we do within our schools and when we go out on a field or to the basketball court. It’s a good picture of what we do and why we do it,” Eaton cheer sponsor Rebecca Gieri said.
Though Eaton wasn’t technically a varsity squad at that point, the idea of the competition excited the cheerleaders.
“I was really excited. I’ve always seen all these different sports go into UIL competitions and for cheer to finally get a chance to participate was exciting,” Renteria recalled. “I couldn’t contain how happy I was. It was going to be amazing, and I finally get to do this.”
“As sophomores, we really didn’t know much about it, but once we understood what exactly it was, it was really cool,” Childress added. “We were like, ‘Wow, we get this opportunity.’”
In 2017, Eaton finished outside the top 50 — disappointing to say the least.
“Last year, we kind of went in thinking about the most extreme stunts and the best tumbling and all these different things were going to be the most beneficial for us,” Renteria said. “That wasn’t exactly the case.”
Learning from the disappointment of 2017, the Eagles vowed to have a better game plan — and a better result — in 2018. Childress even sought outside help from her competitive cheer coaches about the best ways to attack the UIL competition.
“I think we had a better idea of how to compete [this year], not so much putting something together that wasn’t for this type of competition,” Childress said.
After securing a place in the final round, Eaton put all they had into their final performance of the weekend. It went so right, coaches and cheerleaders were on the verge of tears.
“Everything felt perfect in that moment,” Renteria said.
Their efforts paid off, and a cheer squad that didn’t exist three years prior had bronze medals for the trophy case.
“We were so elated. I think that’s the best word to describe how we felt afterward,” Renteria said. “That was honestly one the best experiences of my life. I felt my heart drop when they got to the top five and still hadn’t called our name. I was on the edge of my seat. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing it felt. It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.”
Renteria plans to try out for the cheer squad at Texas Tech this summer, while Childress hopes to be on the sidelines at University of Arkansas football games next fall. Both Tech and Arkansas already have plenty of tradition, of course, so the girls won’t have to worry about starting their own, but both feel better off for having done so at Eaton.
“I feel really accomplished,” Childress said. “I feel like we took on a really big task, and we knew it was a big task in the beginning. We knew we were going to have go through some growing pains.
“But I think being able to come out and go to a UIL competition and earn bronze, we feel like that was a big accomplishment for us and it’s really rewarding for us seniors because we did endure all those growing pains. It was great in the end. I cried when they called our name.”