Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • September 23, 2021
Sacred Hearts Cheerleader Cayla Cabanban May Lose Out On Dream Of Becoming A 4-Time State Champion

Picture this possibility: You are part of a three-time league and Hawaii state championship team. It is your senior year and the COVID-19 virus ends a chance to go out with a four-year sweep.

And that is just a little part of it. The social aspect of being on a team, the hard work, commitment and sweat you put in, and the overall fun might be be taken away.

Such is the case for Sacred Hearts cheerleader Cayla Cabanban. Cheerleading is a fall sport and, due to the coronavirus epidemic, the season has been moved to at least January. If the health threat doesn’t subside by then, there might not be a season at all and the whole Lancers team might not get a chance to defend their titles.

“This is my senior year and (it looks like) I will not be able to defend another ILH and state title,” Cabanban said recently. “I was hoping to become a 4-time ILH and state champ just like my brother. He inspired me to set goals, train hard and stay focused. He has been my biggest role model.”

Cayla Cabanban competing for the Lancers at the nationals
in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Kau’i Cabanban.)

Cayla’s older brother Corey got a rare four-year sweep of ILH and state wrestling championships a few seasons ago while competing for Saint Louis School. He’s now an NCAA Division I competitor at Iowa State. Another brother, Cody, won an NWCA national wrestling title in March with Shreiner University (Kerrville, Texas).

Although she didn’t know much about cheerleading going into eighth grade, Cayla learned pretty quickly, thanks in part to her gymnastics background.

“The girls and coaches were so welcoming,” she said. “This team has such a special bond with one another that it makes the program and going to practice so much more fun. We all respect each other and value each other not only as teammates but as sisters.”

Cayla’s freshman season was a breakthrough year for the Lancers. That year they won the two titles for the first time. As a sophomore, she was named ILH cheerleader of the year. She is the only Lancer senior who was with the squad the three previous years.

She felt the biggest pressure as a junior — her second season as a captain — though.

“(At states) in one one of our stunt sequences, my team and I didn’t hit it solid,” Cabanban said. “It felt like my heart dropped below my feet. I could hear the crowd gasp. The adrenaline rose because the rest of the routine had to be perfect. I was once told ‘nothing is over until you walk off that mat’ and I just kept that saying running through my head.”

There are perks to winning championships.

“One of my biggest highlights was when my team and I had the chance to meet Gov. David Ige,” she said. “We spent some time in the meeting room, took plenty of pictures, and made some small talk. We also had a special tour guide who took us around the state capital. It was such an amazing moment because I had never been to the state capital or been inside where they have their meetings. That same year, we also had the opportunity to be interviewed live on KHON-2 news. Being that I was team captain, they asked me many different questions about the preparation before the competition and how we felt after winning our (combined with Saint Louis School students) first (out of two) grand national (JAMZ) title(s). All 12 of my teammates and I were very thankful for being recognized for our hard work and being able to represent our state with aloha (at the national competition in Las Vegas).”

Cabanban almost didn’t make the transition to cheerleading from gymnastics, but that move was meant to be.

“When I wanted to join cheerleading, my mom told me no and that gymnastics was my life because I was doing it since 7 years old. But look at me now. I found a new passion which I truly enjoy doing. Gymnastics has played a big part for my cheerleading career. It helped with my flexibility and my tumbling.”

The next step for Cayla, she hopes, is cheering for the University of Alabama. She’d also like to major in forensic science/criminal justice.

“I have also considered (the University of Hawaii) and Central Florida,” she added. “I also have been looking into other schools just to have as a backup plan. One goal while in college is I want to be a part of the USA team for cheerleading. Another goal is working toward a third grand national title in Las Vegas, and I’m hoping we have a cheer season so we can win a fourth ILH and state title.”

Cayla gets a ton of support from her brothers, including another older brother, Colin.

“When the four of us are all together, we have nothing but a good time filled with fun and laughter,” she said. “I love how close my siblings and I are. We will always have each other’s back no matter what. They buy me food, take me wherever I need to go, and they all love me even though I’m a brat. They are very overprotective and sometimes I feel that they suffocate me with the load of questions. The thing that drives me crazy about them is sometimes they think I’m part of the boys and treat me like a boy. I guess roughing me up is part of their game plan. (But) they know I’m the boss.”

Three intense competitors. (Photo graphic courtesy Kau’i Cabanban).

Even if there is a cheerleading season, there’s no guarantee that the Landers will win the league and state championships like they did in the fall of 2017, ’18 and ’19. But you can bet Cabanban and her teammates under coach Cadey Vakauta will do everything possible to make that outcome a reality.

“Coach Cadey (and the assistants) always push my team and I to be bigger and better people not only in cheer but in life as well,” Cabanban said. “Coach Cadey is very technical and has the eye for perfection. She allows us to have fun, but when it’s time to hit the grind, she is all about business.”


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