Visions of high ponytails, glittery eyeshadow and brightly colored uniforms are many ten year old’s dreams. While doing double fulls, standing tucks, standing fulls, and back handsprings, senior Jessica Bartlett also managed to keep a 4.4 GPA, and get accepted to UC Berkeley all while travelling over 20 hours per week to practices in Ventura in her senior year.
For eight years, Bartlett has been tumbling, stunting, and performing her way to the top on the local competitive cheer team, senior level 3 California Gold Shockwaves. Bartlett has now been a part of a senior level 4 team California Allstars: Ventura for one year, and on May 18, Bartlett found out she made the three time world champion team Smoed.
“I’ve always dreamed of becoming a world champion in cheerleading and knew that making the move to California Allstars was my best chance,” said Bartlett, whose team has been World Champions in the ‘Super Bowl’ of cheerleading.
“This is the most stacked team in the history of competitive cheer, so everyone better watch out because were coming for a 4-peat!” said Bartlett, meaning that she plans on winning with her new team for Smoeds fourth win at Worlds.
She began cheerleading when she was ten years old at California Gold Shockwaves under the eye of her coach Amber Davis. She made the move to California Allstars, in June of 2013. She practiced three to four times a week from 4 pm to 9 pm in Ventura, about a three hour drive. The earliest that Bartlett comes home from practices is 10 pm, and the latest is 1 am. The competition season doesn’t start until November, so the team will spend the next six months without competitions, instead choosing to work on new tumbling and stunting skills and learning new routines for the next season.
Bartlett switched teams because to try out for Smoed, a level five team that Bartlett had always dreamed about being on, she would have to be on a level four team for at least a year first. Smoed has won the World Championship in Orlando, Florida, for the past three years. Since California Gold was only a level three team, and Bartlett had learned skills that surpassed a level three team, she tried out for the California Allstars team and made it. Bartlett only has two more years left in competitive cheer until she ages out at 18 and could only be on international teams.
“My first [Smoed] practice was unbelievably hard.. If I could take the hardest conditioning from all my practices and combined them into one, it would still not compare to how hard this one was! But I also had a lot of fun. Everyone is so nice and encouraging,” said Bartlett, who has practices six or seven times in Ventura.
She’s traveled to 145 practices in Ventura, meaning 800 hours on the road, or a total of 33 days a year, on just driving to practices alone.
“The conditioning and training is a lot harder than I have ever done, so it was cool to experience something that was out of my comfort zone,”said Bartlett, who can now do a double full, a back flip with a straight body and two full twists. Her cheerleading coach, is a four time world champion and considered one of the best coaches in the industry.
On the days that Bartlett doesn’t have practices she trains at her home gym, California Gold, and catches up on her sleep and homework.
Of Bartlett’s four classes, she has three periods of AP, English, biology, government, and Econ.
Bartlett also has her own personal cheerleaders, a team of family members that support her. “We support her financially, emotionally and with all the love in our hearts,” said mother Alicia Bartlett, who attends almost all of Bartlett’s competitions. And the cost does add up. Tuition, uniforms, camp, and choreography each year is 5,000 dollars. Gas and hotel and plane tickets add an additional 13,000 dollars, according to Bartlett.
“She has always been so driven in everything she’s put her mind to. Anything short of the best is unacceptable to her. She has an incredible work ethic,” said Alicia, who was a ballet dancer at her daughter’s age.
Before each competition Bartlett prepares by driving to her competition location the night before and getting ready with the other girls. They have a practice in the competition venue the day before the competition that will follow in the next few days. Her team of 20 other girls, ranging from ages 12-18, travel around California and to Dallas, Texas, Orlando, Florida, and Philadelphia where they fly there as a team.
“I am very competitive and love that you can always improve and better yourself in cheerleading. There is always a new skill to learn in both tumbling and stunting and I love the endless possibilities to get better,” said Bartlett, who plans on cheering with Smoed next year and attending Berkeley after her childhood dream is accomplished.