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Daily Pilot

Costa Mesa cheerleaders press on, dominate in Palm Springs

Team earns great success at four-day camp amid adversity.

11:26 PM PDT, July 24, 2014

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This past month has been very difficult on the Costa Mesa High cheerleaders. Back in June their beloved cheer coach Kori Johnson lost her husband of 16 years in a tragic automobile accident.

As much as the program was Kori's, her husband, Kyle, made his impact to not only supporting the cheerleaders but also making the cheer boxes, donating and doing a lot of the "man's work" at events.

Obviously Kori needed some time to start healing and grieve. The cheerleaders have been right there offering support to the coach that has supported them for the past nine years. Though guest coaches came in to help with practices, one being Irazmi Perez, a UCLA cheer coach, the girls kept everything that Coach Kori had taught them to heart and dedicated themselves to continue on.

They weren't about to let the amazing program Kori Johnson worked so hard to build, crumble.

Summer camp is always the start of their season and every year the girls on the cheer team dominate under Johnson direction. This year, Johnson was not up to attend the recent four-day camp in Palm Springs, but wished them luck and told them to do their best and enjoy every minute of it.

The team started off at the top winning blue superior ribbons and excellent evaluations. At dinner they got an even bigger surprise as they turned the corner they saw their coach.

Johnson showed up for the night to check up on them. Obviously hugs and lots of tears filled the ball room. The coach spent the rest of the evening and the following day back in her role, guiding them, correcting them and showing them that things will work out. The girls paid her back by winning more blue ribbons, working hard and dominating the camp.

"I started to feel like me again, being at camp with the girls," Johnson said. "And seriously you can't help but smile with all the energy in the room. I'm sorry I only stayed one night, but I needed to take baby steps in this whole process."

The CMHS cheerleaders ended up as the "TOP BANANAS," meaning the top spirit of all schools attending, and brought home six trophies, 10 blue ribbons, two spirit sticks, nine All-Americans, four Pin-It-Forwards and one member getting appointed for next year. CMHS cheer also showed they take community service very seriously and won the top school for St. Jude Letters — making their big brother form Universal Cheerleaders Assn., Dustin, get the cold water challenge.

"The program I have built is so strong, nothing can tear it down," Johnson said. "The girls know what I expect of them and even though I personally am going through the hardest thing in my life, they can see that strength will carry me through and I hope that they learn from it and realize how incredible they are and how to never give up on anything."

— Steve Virgen