When the Gilroy High Cheerleading program puts on its signature event, Mustang Madness, its objective is to bring the community together and raise up the next generation of cheerleaders from an early age.
This year’s event performance, which took place at halftime of the Gilroy High boys basketball game on Jan. 27, had extra meaning. Due to Covid and other extenuating factors, Mustang Madness wasn’t held in 2021 or 2022.
That’s a big reason why 77 kids from local elementary and middle schools—approximately double the normal number—signed up for this year’s event, a three-day cheer clinic for Gilroy youth in K-8th. In the Mustang Madness performance, every athlete of the 40-member GHS Cheer team pairs up with the younger girls and teaches them basic elements of cheerleading, including jumps, stunts and choreography for the dance part of the routine, which lasts about 90 seconds.
“The best part of this event is how much fun the little kids in our community have,” said Danyelle Brothers, who coaches the GHS Cheer program along with Kayla Fernandez. “To see them show up on the first day a little nervous, to the day of performance is pretty amazing to see. On the first day, they don’t really know any of the routine and watching them on performance night and the amount of joy these kids have is just priceless. They come a long way in a very short amount of time.”
All sports teams have to fundraise to pay for uniforms, transportation and other costs associated with going through a season. And while Mustang Madness is one of the key fundraisers for the GHS program, what the event does in promoting the sport of cheerleading and making it accessible to kids is of the greatest impact.
“For us it’s less of a fundraiser and more of getting the community involved in high school cheer,” Brothers said. “And we love to see those eighth grade students who will be freshmen, they get to see what our team is about and get a little taste of it.”
Brothers and Fernandez have coached the program together for the last nine years. Fernandez is a GHS graduate and former cheerleader at the school, and Brothers is a Live Oak High graduate but grew up in Gilroy and has a deep connection with the community, even attending GHS reunions.
“Kayla is a lot younger than me so she keeps me on my toes,” Brothers said. “She was a part of the Gilroy cheer team which is awesome.”
Fernandez, who spends a couple of weeks putting together the routine, handles all the choreography, teaching it to the senior cheerleaders who in turn impart those lessons to the younger girls at the three-day clinic that runs up to the Mustang Madness performance.
Putting on Mustang Madness is a complete program-wide effort, and was led by seniors Mia Barbaglia, Mikaela Baxter, Gianna Di Maria, Jasmine Deleon, Angelina Felix, Evelyn Espino, Angelina DiCairano, Aryssa Garcia, Bryanna Gutierrez, Lexi Miller, Citlali Ortiz-Barba, Melissa Parra, Morgan Parra and Leslie Renteria, who all played a “huge part in the event,” Brothers said.
The GHS co-coach added freshmen Jenny Pedreguera and Isabella Martinez showed up early every day of the clinic to help set up, while juniors Aleeya Jones and Arabella Brady and sophomore Yadhirra Zendejas played a “huge role in teaching stunting skills to their participant stunt groups.”
Brothers said the performance routine is the culmination of a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes leading up to the event. Brothers handles all of the coordination that goes with designing and ordering of the T-shirts, cheer bows and pom-poms.
“The nervousness [of the event] actually comes from getting everything ordered and ready,” Brothers said. “Luckily, we have amazing vendors CalSilk and Cheer About Bows who work with us for a super quick turnaround time once we know after our first day of the clinic how many T-shirts and bows we will need. … But we absolutely cannot put on this event without the help of our team. Honestly, the entire team of 40 athletes played a role.”