She often gets asked whether she's the Sue Sylvester ("Glee" actress Jane Lynch) of Dublin High, but Kristine Cousins has actually never seen a full episode of the hit show. And rarely, if ever, will you find her dressed in a track suit. But the success that Cousins has brought to the Dublin High cheer program isn't far off from the accomplishments of the fictional McKinley High character.
Dublin High's varsity competitive cheer team has earned national championships the past two years and will soon go for a three-peat. In fact, girls who are juniors at DHS and started cheering while at Fallon Middle School are on a streak of being champions the past four straight years and going after number five.
"When I started here (at Dublin High) four years ago, there were two sideline teams -- JV and varsity. Now, we have three sideline teams -- freshman, JV and varsity -- along with two competitive teams, and this year we added a hip-hop competitive varsity team," says Cousins, who adds that there's been a 300 percent increase in the number of girls participating in cheer at DHS.
National championships aside, what helps to set Dublin High apart from many schools is the inclusiveness of the cheer program. Every girl who meets the academic and attendance requirements is on at least the sideline cheer squad. There are no cuts. In the past few years, girls with Down syndrome and autism have been members of the squad.
"Every size, shape, ethnicity, tall or short, as long as they work hard, get good grades, have good attendance and be held accountable as a leader is all that we require," she says.
The sideline teams usually practice once or twice a week but also attend what could be two to three games a week to lend their vocal support. The competition team practices three times a week, and every Saturday in January and February in advance of the national competitions.
It's a lot of hours but a labor of love to Cousins and the girls.
"Kristine isn't just a coach to all the girls, she's like having another mom," says Mandy Millard, a member of the DHS competition team before graduating this past June. "She made sure she brought in the best of the best people to work with us; choreographers, tumbling coaches, all sorts of coaches. I mean we had people transferring from other schools just to be on this cheer team."
The success of the program is also reflective of the fact that two DHS cheerleaders recently earned scholarships to cheer and, of course, study in college. Cousins, whose daughter Bella is a senior cheerleader, isn't sure yet how many more years she'll stay on to lead her cheer flock but hopes that like a good cheer stunt, the solid foundation she built stays in place when she's gone.
"When I leave the program someday, it's my hope that the administration and the district will leave intact the program of all-inclusiveness that I've brought here and maintain what we've created," says Cousins.
Holiday DancEscape: The very popular Dublin Senior Center will likely be rocking and rolling tomorrow night when they celebrate the season with what they're calling the DancEscape social dance. The event runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and will feature live music from the TNT Band, which plays a mix of oldies and more current hits.
The cost is $10 for Dublin residents 50 and older and $12 for those living outside the city limits. For information, call 925-556-4511.
Contact Alan Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org.