Costa Mesa won the American School Spirit Award, as the top cheer program in the nation, from the University Cheerleaders Assn. (Courtesy of Kori Johnson / December 21, 2013)

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The Costa Mesa High cheer program has gained a recent string of success, culminating with a prestigious award.

Costa Mesa won the American School Spirit Award, as the top cheer program in the nation, from the University Cheerleaders Assn.

It marks the second time Costa Mesa has received the top prize that is based on the program as a whole and rewards for cheer skills, community service, academics and spirit. Costa Mesa also won the award in 2009.

"It's awesome," Coach Kori Johnson said. "It's an honor that we've won it twice. I didn't think we would be the top program twice. I wasn't going to submit our team for the award this year because I didn't think we could win it again. So it was more of a surprise."

Costa Mesa also recently won its third straight regional title at the Universal Cheerleaders Assn. Southern California Championships at the Bren Events Center, at UC Irvine. In addition, the Mustangs won a division title in a category called, Game Day.

They competed the traditional side of cheerleading, and they also delivered a performance cheer, a band dance and a sideline performance.

Costa Mesa earned a bid to compete at the National and World High School Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Fla.

In January, the Costa Mesa cheer team will compete at a state competition in Ontario, Calif. Then a week after that it's off to Orlando, Fla. for the national championships. A week after that trip it will be time for another regional competition in Anaheim.

"We are going to be extremely busy," said Johnson, whose team finished sixth in the nation in its division in Orlando last year.

Through it all, Johnson will know that her team has already accomplished a great deal, especially from winning the American School Spirit Award.

"The best part of the award is that it looks at a program as a whole," she said. "This reward means more to me than when we win at competitions."