The Evolution Cheer team is going to Disney World.
The youngsters out of Watsonville earned a trip of a lifetime to compete in March at the Quest Recreational Championship in Orlando, Fla.
Last month, the group placed first with a score of 92 in the 14-Under Performance Cheer non affiliated division at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Regionals USA Spirit Competition.
Genesis Hernandez and Isabella Torres were both stunned and thrilled after the final results were announced by the emcee.
“When I heard that we won first place I got super excited,” Isabella said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, we did it.’”
Genesis said she was overfilled with joy and felt like it was a huge accomplishment by everybody.
“I feel like we did something that we all wanted to do as a whole team,” Genesis said.
Genesis, 12, has been a cheerleader since she could remember. She said her favorite part is competing and being able to make new friends at the tournaments.
“They’re really fun and you get to make bonds with other people on the teams and make fun memories,” Genesis said.
Isabella, 12, said she also likes the competitions because she likes the feeling of having screaming fans cheer for them while they perform stunts.
“I’m always thinking ‘We got this, we could do this’ and don’t do anything dumb,” said Isabella with a chuckle.
Both of them admitted they got butterflies before hitting the big stage but Genesis said that all went away once the spotlight was on them.
“I get nervous but when I go on stage the nerves go away,” she said.
Genesis’ mom, Araceli Garcia, went to Aptos High from 1994-98 and she was a cheerleader all four years she attended. It wasn’t until her senior year when the team began to compete in big tournaments.
Garcia, 39, and her sister, Angelica, run Evolution Cheer, which began five years ago.
Genesis was originally signed up for the Junior Catz cheerleading team. Shortly after her mom started Evolution Cheer with the thought of changing things up and adding some spice to the cheers.
“Both me and my sister had discussed and thought it’d be better if we started our own thing,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the team started with nine girls in the first two years. Last year, they had as many as 25 girls.
The team went back down to 10 cheerleaders after Garcia decided not to take in the “littles,” which are girls ranging from 6 to 8 years old.
Garcia said it’s easier to manage a smaller team especially with their small coaching staff. She said it makes things easier for her on and off the cheerleading floor.
“They’re always together,” Garcia said. “It makes it easier because they get along and they’re so tight knit.”
Evolution has placed first in 10 regional tournaments and went to the nationals two years ago in Disneyland where they placed third.
Garcia said she loved to cheer when she was younger and figured she wanted to give back to the community by offering affordable rates to kids in the area.
The cost to join this year’s team was $675. Garcia said she believes they are one of the least expensive cheer teams compared to others in the area, which can run anywhere from $750-$2000.
“We want our kids to have a great experience and want to continue to return,” Garcia said.
Garcia said she also wants the team to recruit others, girls or boys, who want to join. She said she wants to build a bigger team to represent Watsonville.
“We want to go (to Orlando) and we want to represent well and hopefully bring home a top-3 finish,” Garcia said.
There hasn’t been any boys on the team. Garcia said they would love to have one join if they were interested.
“You see a boy out there on the stage, everybody’s like ‘Oh my god, he can jump high and look at his facial (expression),’” Garcia said. “I think having a boy on the team gives the team an extra umph.”
Tiffany Vazquez, 35, went to Watsonville High and remembers when her younger sister, Chelsea Riotutar, was a cheerleader for the Wildcatz.
Riotutar, 27, is the team’s head coach and choreographer, while Vazquez is an assistant coach and also has kids on the team.
Vazquez said one of the goals is having cheerleaders develop leadership skills and be able to participate in public outings.
“It’s just something for them to do if they want to do something in the future,” Vazquez said. “I know a lot of people don’t think there’s very much in cheerleading but you can go to college and become a cheerleader.”
The coaches are gearing up for their trip to Orlando but they still need some financial assistance to make the trip a possibility. Garcia said they’re doing everything from car washes to food sales such as tamales, tacos, hot dogs and spaghetti dinners.
The Turkey Boat is also having a fundraiser on Nov. 11 where all the proceeds made that day will go toward the team’s trip.
Vazquez, whose mom owns The Turkey Boat, said aside from raising funds for the trip, the team still needs to work on its routines for the upcoming tournament in Orlando.
“To be able to compete against the other side of the country where cheerleading is predominant in Texas,” Vazquez said. “We’re just practicing a lot. Lots of practice.”
Vazquez and Garcia said this is a huge stage for any team, especially one from a small farm town on the Central Coast.
“This is stuff you’ll see on ESPN,” Vazquez said. “I was in shock for an entire week, I still couldn’t believe it. It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity for these girls.”
Evolution Cheer is looking for donations at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-go-to-walt-disney-world-for-the-quest-comp?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet