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Forty-three years ago, Jody Scott was the queen of pep rallies, tumbling and turning to the tune of “Anchors Aweigh.”
She roused West High nation vertically and vocally, cartwheeling across the gymnasium, urging the Wildcats on with well-rehearsed cheers and the school’s fight song.
It was 1966, and Scott was 18 years old and the head cheerleader at West High, one of two high schools in a town divided in two — East and West.
“We had to really be serious about not only what we did, but how we did it,” Scott said, recalling the days when Bill Bissell headed the West marching band and legendary football coach Chuck Semancik roamed the sidelines. “We got a lot of critiquing and feedback, which was really cool. We became a real integral part of the school.”
Nearly half-a-century later, Scott, 61, is dusting off the pompoms and clearing her pipes in preparation for the first-ever East-West alumni fundraiser basketball game, scheduled for Dec. 28.
The game is being put on by the Bremerton Student & Alumni Association in an effort to raise funds for current Bremerton students, reunite East and West alumni and rekindle a rivalry — in friendly fashion — that dominated Bremerton for about two decades.
In the spirit of sport and tradition, former East and West cheerleaders are coming together to support their respective basketball teams, which will be comprised of alumni who are now 50-plus years old. Both sides are practicing cheers and will be courtside when the game tips off.
“We aren’t going to just sit on the bleachers, we are actually going to be out there,” Scott said. “We want to do the fight song and we want do some cheers.”
The class of 1966 reunites every five years, a tradition it’s carried on without fail for four decades, but never have the former cheer squads from East and West participated, together, in such an event.
“We always bring out the colors, the clothes, the memorabilia and display it,” Scott said. “We always sing the fight song at our reunions. It’s not just a social event for old people when we get together.”
To illustrate the passion associated with the East-West rivalry, Scott has a story:
Between her junior and senior year, her parents moved from the west side of the Manette Bridge to the east side. At the time, the Bremerton School District enforced a strict policy that prohibited kids who lived on the east side to attend West, and vice verca.
A principal caught wind of Scott’s move, telling her she must transfer to East despite the fact she was the head cheerleader at West. It took a call from her parents to the superintendent to have the decision overruled. Her two younger brothers, however, attended East, becoming members of the marching band.
During football season, her parents spent half of each game on the East sideline and half on the West side.
“No matter who won, there was a fight in our home when we got home between my two brothers and I,” Scott said. “The rivalry was strong.”
The East cheer squad is ready for the alumni game, too.
Laura Sanchez-Garinger, a 1975 East grad, is selling East T-shirts with her fellow alum. Like Scott, Sanchez-Garinger was a cheerleader and looks forward to lining up opposite West and seeing her former cheer teammates.
“I may not be able to do flips and splits anymore, but my spirit will be there in full force,” said Sanchez-Garinger, who looks forward to reliving the experience of East sports in the mid-70s. “The stands were always packed and we had the best fans, pep club and band, not to mention the parent support. The band would play songs and we were out there doing dance routines, leading cheers and just getting the crowd pumped up while the guys were warming up.”
And Scott, who has been an educator for the past 32 years, hopes the BSAA develops a booster club specifically designed to support the cheerleading program at Bremerton High School. A booster club could help with finances — the costs associated with cheer are high — and also would give former cheerleaders an opportunity to mentor current students.
Events such as the East-West game serve to strengthen that possibility.
“I would really be in favor of it evolving into something so that I can give back to my school the way I want to,” Scott said. “I know that schools can’t function without the community behind them. It is the heart of every community that a school system be strong, supported and understood, because our young people need the community to care about them.”