For Eva Perez, the cheer of the Edinburg High School varsity cheerleaders, which has taken the team to nationals eight consecutive years, is more than just words — it’s why she’s proud to be a Bobcat.

“All of the words are everything that I have ever known about being a Bobcat,” Perez said of the cheer, which states: “Pride and tradition is what we believe, The title is ours, we will achieve.”

“It is about the pride in the school, the tradition of excellence,” she added.

The squad continued that tradition Sunday at the NCA state championship in Dallas, where they placed first in their division and received three specialty awards: best use of tumbling, best use of stunts and superior showmanship.

Perez, a graduate of the class of 2000 and former cheerleader herself, has been the school’s varsity coach for eight years and remembers writing the cheer with a few students during her first year as coach.

“We were in the cheer room one morning and we just wrote a whole new cheer,” Perez, an Edinburg native, said. “It was easy to write it with them because we just really thought about how we felt about our school, and our pride for it… it just flowed.”

After a few changes the following year, the cheer has since stayed the same and motivated the cheer program to win three state titles and five national.

Currently, there are 19 members in the varsity team and 23 in the competing team.

Eva Perez gives direction during Edinburg High varsity cheerleader squad during practice at Edinburg High School on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Four-year varsity cheerleader Sarisha Mendoza said that those titles take more than just physical dedication. It also requires a strong, determined mindset.

“It takes a lot of dedication, and you have to set your mind to it and say, ‘OK, we have to get this done,’” the McAllen native said. “If you’re not all in it, it’s hard. You have to come in everyday knowing that you are going to work hard.”

Mendoza, 18, is the valedictorian of her class and will be attending Texas A&M University next fall to pursue a degree in biomedical sciences. She is also a part of the school’s HOSA team.

She and Julianna Palacios, the only other four-year varsity member, agreed that balancing schoolwork and cheer practices, which begin at 6:45 a.m. every weekday, is difficult. Both giggled when Mendoza added, “Practices are hardly ever canceled, it’s rare that it’s ever canceled.”

Their lightheartedness stems from the passion they share for cheer.

“There are days when it’s super hard because your body is super sore, and especially with school,” Palacios, a flier and team captain, said. “You feel like you don’t want to get up to do your work, but you have to tell your mind: ‘To be successful, this is what it takes. You have to work this hard.’”

Palacios, 18, made the top 6% of her class and will be attending the University of Texas, where she plans to study biology. She is also a member of the school’s National Honors Society.

The Edinburg native added that their coach, Perez, sends the team motivational messages most mornings on their group chat. One that has stuck with Mendoza reads: “Finishing strong is the only respectable way to finish.”

“It means that as long as we know that we did everything we could possibly put on the mat, then that is enough,” she said.

Mendoza added that another key to the success of the team is fostering their dynamic.

Edinburg High varsity cheerleader squad during practice at Edinburg High School on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

“The bond we have is really unique, since we see each other every morning,” she said. “We have gotten so close, and I think that that’s something the other teams don’t have. It helps us communicate and know each other well enough that we know how to compliment each other.”

Perez, who has been cheering since she was 6 years old, said she also understands the importance of determination, and has changed the way she structures practices to encourage it in her team.

“I run practice differently so that they can see themselves be successful, and cheer each other on,” she said. “I have built them up mentally to give them the confidence they need to get there.”

After stretching or workouts in the weight room, the team begins practices by having small groups practice individually, while the rest watches and cheers.

“You work so hard into the 2-and-a-half-minute routine, and being able to see it put together and executed to its full potential is so rewarding,” Perez said. “But also seeing them say, ‘Hey, we can do better, that was not our best,’ is very, very rewarding.”