Virgen: Johnson, cheerleaders help out with sports camp

When Kori Johnson was a cheerleader at Costa Mesa High in the late 80s, she was a part of a different type of "stunt" team.

Back then, Johnson, who is now the Costa Mesa cheer coach, and the Mustangs didn't compete. They were left to performing wild stunts and tricks at sporting events.

"We did crazy stunts that are so illegal now," Johnson says with a laugh. "We would go three [people] high and I would get on the top and do a back flip. We did flips on the concrete. I think all the crazy things we did back in the 80s is the reason we have rules now. Every stunt we did back then now it's illegal."

Johnson said she enjoyed her time as a cheerleader at Costa Mesa and she remains friends with several of her cheermates. She said she also learned a great deal from her coaches.

"Our coaches were strict and held us to high standards," Johnson said of Chris Taylor and Lyndy Morton. "A lot of stuff I do is from them and how they were back then."

All of the great memories Johnson had, she now hopes her cheerleaders will have the same type of fun and lessons learned.

Being actively involved in community events has been one of several strengths of the Costa Mesa cheer program. They were at the city's Free Concerts in the Park each week.

The cheerleaders have also become known as being part of Irrelevant Week, the annual weeklong party that celebrates the dead-last pick in the NFL Draft. Irrelevant Week takes place in Newport Beach and other parts of Orange County.

They're at it again.

Amid a busy summer, the Costa Mesa cheerleaders are helping out with the inaugural four-week Costa Mesa All-Sports Camp. The Estancia cheerleaders coached kids for the first two weeks. And now it's Costa Mesa's turn to work with the incoming fourth-graders through eight-graders within the Estancia and Costa Mesa high school zones.

The camp is unique in that it is free to the children. The camp relies on community donations to cover the costs that is estimated to up to $150 each child. The camp is still accepting donations, through Costa Mesa United at

The camp had a good turnout during the first two weeks, Estancia principal Kirk Bauermeister said.

In the first two weeks, the camp had 203 kids come through in 10 different sports (baseball, basketball, cheer, football, soccer, softball, tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling).

Bauermeister said, the kids who attended were from the schools: Adams, California, College Park, Davis, Kaiser, Killybrooke, Pomona, Rea, Sonora, Victoria, Whittier, Wilson, Costa Mesa Middle School, Ensign Intermediate and TeWinkle Intermediate.

The Costa Mesa and Estancia cheerleaders, as well as several of other coaches and players are happy to participate in the camp, even during a whirlwind of a summer.

"It's been very busy," Johnson said of her summer. "We competed in STUNT. We won that. We ended school. We went to cheer camp and won several awards there. We've been practicing every day for three hours. When we get out of practice we go teach at the All-Sports Camp.

"It's been a very cheery summer."

Johnson said the cheerleaders have enjoyed their time interacting with the kids during the All-Sports Camp. They are used to these types of things as they also hold summer clinics for young cheerleaders.

They'll have a clinic on Monday, Johnson said.

The Costa Mesa cheer coach is excited about these type of events. They all help make Costa Mesa a great school, she said.

Johnson is all about Costa Mesa High. She says some people like to say she bleeds green.

When she became cheer coach at Costa Mesa she came at the right time. After attending Long Beach State, where she earned an undergraduate degree in speech communications, she became a district sales manager for Claire's Accessories.

Who did she marry? That would be Kyle Johnson, who also graduated from Costa Mesa, where he played water polo in the Mustangs' heyday. He's now a firefighter. They weren't high school sweethearts, but were friends in high school who later dated and then married.

Kori stopped working after they had kids and she became a stay-at-home mom. Their son, Kevin, is now 12, and about to start the seventh grade at Costa Mesa. He was in the paper recently with his Costa Mesa Aquatics Club team winning a gold medal in the classic division at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics. They also have a daughter, Kyra, 9, who will be in the fourth grade at Sonora.

Eight years ago, Kori was at a friend's birthday party and spoke to a cheerleader's mother, Debbie Speer. Kori found out Costa Mesa was in need of a cheer coach.

The Mustangs' program went through several coaches back then and wasn't much of a program.

Kori eventually became the perfect fit for the program. She got the job.

"My intention was to go for a year to rescue the program and turn it over to someone else," Kori said. "That was eight years ago. I love it. We turned a failing program that was on its last leg then to a world and nationally known program."

The Mustangs had a year to remember. Back in February they shined at the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla.

They finished sixth in the nation out of 20 teams in their division and they finished sixth out of 12 in the World School Cheerleading Championships Team Competition, which included squads from Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica.

There can be more success in the future, Johnson believes.

"I'm looking forward to competition season because we are going to blow away people with some of the stuff that we can do," Johnson said.

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