Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • October 21, 2021
Cheering Against COVID-19: Sacred Hearts Nails It For A Fourth Straight ILH Championship

Slowly but surely, Hawaii’s CHAMPIONS are returning to the podium.

COVID-19 has been one long, confusing, irritating, shocking, crazy, sad and weird journey. It’s been a killer, literally. And it’s taken a lot of joy away from a lot of people all over the world.

Fortunately, there seems to be a real turn in the tide. Vaccinations are helping and it appears things are in the initial stages of the world working its way toward normalcy again.


The 2021 ILH champion Sacred Hearts Lancers. (Image credit: Lancer_Athletics on Instagram). From left to right are: Angelina Castaneda, Ali Lelesh, Ashlyn Takai, Cayla Cabanban, Alissa De Smet, Jacelyn Tanuvasa, Mari Oyer and Rhyan Okamoto. (Photo courtesy of Cayla Cabanban).


And so, there was a particularly wonderful joy being felt Friday night at the Interscholastic League of Honolulu cheerleading championships. The Sacred Hearts squad nailed it on the mat, winning the title for the fourth consecutive time at the Kamehameha gym.

Wait, did I just write that? Or am I making it up to get readership? Sports championships happening? No way!!!

No, it’s real. The ILH, the only one of five leagues who have had any kind of real sports competition in Hawaii this school year, gave the sport the go-ahead to run its title meet within recent weeks. The league has also been running official cross country, sporter air riflery, and swimming and diving events as well as some tennis and exhibition basketball. In addition, the ILH is deep into the planning stages of starting many of its spring sports competitions and Hawaii’s four other leagues (OIA, BIIF, MIL, KIF) have gotten the go-ahead to practice spring sports as long as a particular school has a blended learning model that allows students to return to campus.

All good news. And Sacred Hearts led by coach Cadey Vakauta is riding the crest of this feel-good wave.

For the Lancers’ cheerleading program, things looked severely bleak in September. Click here to read a story from Sept. 20, 2020, about how it looked as if Sacred Hearts senior Cayla Cabanban’s dreams of becoming a four-time champion were going to be snuffed out.

Well, COVID-19 did not completely win this particular battle. Cabanban is (kind of miraculously, if you think about what the powers that be in the ILH had to overcome just to hold the event) now a FOUR-TIME ILH champion. The virus, however, did take away Cabanban and the team’s shot for a fourth Hawaii state championship in a row.

“I’m just so blessed,” Cabanban said. “It’s a different feeling than the first title we won. I feel so accomplished, finishing my high school career to the best of my ability. And I’m so thankful and honored that we got to have a season when other people aren’t (having a season).”

Cabanban is planning to cheer in college and is thinking about attending either the University of Hawaii or the University of Alabama.

“Everything went well (Friday night),” she added. “We executed just like we were supposed to. When we first stepped on the mat, it was kind of slippery. I don’t know if it was that they sprayed it for sanitation or not. It was different than usual, so that was a little difficult. But we didn’t let that get into our heads.”

Victory was super close, with ‘Iolani right behind

Sacred Hearts’ victory Friday night was a close one, indeed. Only one of the three judges had the Lancers at the top of the list. ‘Iolani and Punahou also made the top of judges’ cards.


Watch above video of Sacred Hearts’ winning performance in the 2021 ILH cheerleading championships.


Overall, Sacred Hearts compiled 222.25 points, with the Raiders a fraction behind at 222.00. The Buffanblu were third at 219.75.

Last weekend, Sacred Hearts beat out two other schools to win the advanced varsity division in the virtually held National Cheerleading Association competition. Overall, more than 100 schools competed in various divisions.

In recent years, Sacred Hearts (combined with Saint Louis School) also won two JAMZ grand national championships in Las Vegas.

Aside from coach Vakauta and Cabanban, the Lancers are made up of seniors Ashlyn Takai and Alissa De Smet, juniors Jacelyn Tanuvasa and Mari Oyer, freshmen Angelina Castaneda, Ali Lelesh and Rhyan Okamoto, and assistant coaches Gail Gushikuma and Kainoa Rudolfo.

New baby in the family!!!

Side note: According to Cabanban, her brother Cody Cabanban and Allie Mahoe had a baby girl Saturday morning. Her name is Callie. Cody is a former Saint Louis School wrestler and Allie is a former Kapolei wrestler. In addition, click here to read about Cody’s victory in the National Junior Collegiate Wrestling Association championships in 2020 for Shreiner University in Kerrville, Tex.


A new wrestler, perhaps? Junior college national wrestling champion Cody Cabanban and girlfriend Allie Mahoe, a former Kapolei wrester, had a baby girl, Callie, on Saturday morning.


The final ILH cheerleading championship meet standings follow.

2021 ILH Cheerleading Championships
>> 1. Sacred Hearts (76, 73.25, 73) = 222.25
>> 2. ‘Iolani (75.25, 74.25, 72.50) = 222.00
>> 3. Punahou (73.50, 72.00, 74.25) = 219.75
>> 4. Kamehameha (72.75, 69.50, 66.00) = 208.25
>> 5. Pac-Five (55.00, 52.50, 53.25) = 160.75
>> 6. Damien (48.50, 47.25, 49.00) = 144.75

ALSO AT — 2021 UH Football Schedule: A Bundle Of Former Hawaii High Schoolers Will Play Against Rainbow Warriors

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