By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Winning two of the three league meets in 2018-19, the Oxford Wildcats cheerleading team was able to claim the Oakland Athletic Association (OAA )White title in the first year of Alanna Weber’s second stint as the program’s head coach.
Returning to Oxford following stops at South Lyon, Clawson and Birmingham Seaholm, one of Weber’s first moves was to hire Kelly Westbrook, an Oxford High School graduate, as her assistant.
Capturing a league title in their first year together, the pairing of Weber and Westbrook hit the ground running. As Westbrook points out, however, the sustained success the Wildcats are seeking takes a fundamentally sound program.
“We’re in growth mode. Our goal coming in last year was to build the program from the middle school level on
up,” she said. “All the way down to sixth grade, we wanted to get all the girls on the same page because that was how we felt we could best build a successful program – and we have already gained a number of girls. When we look around the league at some of the other schools, we can get a good sense of where we’re at and we’re happy. We definitely feel our program is moving in the right direction.”
They will be put to the test this season as Oxford is tasked with replacing 16 seniors from a year ago. Fortunately, this group does have plenty of experience returning, too. Of the 26 girls on the varsity team, 12 of them are seniors.
Due to this, Weber and Westbrook took the unique approach of naming each of the dozen a team captain.
“We’re excited about our senior class,” Westbrook said. “Because all of them are strong athletes but also great individual leaders, we made every single one of them a captain and gave them a captain’s job. We have a lot of responsibilities for the girls when we host competitions, including the girls that have expressed an interest to us in coaching in the future.”
While graduating 16 members of your team presents an obvious set of challenges, it also played a pivotal role in allowing the Wildcats to continue their residence in the OAA White.
“When all the coaches met, we discussed moving up to the OAA Red; but the coaches saw how different our team was going to look and I think they had some compassion for us,” Westbrook said jokingly.
“One thing the league did do was move West Bloomfield from the Red to the White to kind of even out the three leagues.”
Welcome news to the ears of parents and fans, Oxford’s travel schedule will be a little bit lighter than usual, as well. A testament to the work of both members of the program and volunteers, the Wildcats will be hosting five competitions this season.
“In the past, Oxford has only hosted one competition,” Westbrook said. “We received really positive feedback on how we ran that competition, so this year they’re having us hold a junior level competition for middle school, freshman and junior varsity. Then we have our Mardi Gras Invite on Jan. 11 which we host every year, the second league meet on Jan. 30 and the Oakland County Championship on Feb. 8. It’s an honor to host all these competitions, but it’s a lot of work, too.”
The added responsibilities of hosting these events will be a new test, but the girls are aware of the team’s present goal.
“Our first competition is Dec. 14, so we’re preparing for that right now, but we’re also really focused on being league champs again,” Westbrook said of her team’s approach. “Repeating is our biggest goal for the season right now. That’s what we are working toward.”