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After being briefly featured in season 1, Cheer expands the world of competitive cheerleading in season 2 to include Navarro College’s biggest rival in the sport, Trinity Valley Community College. Only 30 miles down the road in Athens, Texas, the team is led by coach Vontae Johnson and features standout athletes Jada Wooten, DeVonte “Dee” Joseph and Angel Rice. And considering they’re 12-time national champions, the squad is a force to be reckoned with.
While they were approached about being followed in season 1, Johnson tells ET that they ultimately turned them down “because we wanted to make sure that we focused on our goals to become champions.” But as season 1 shows, TVCC was denied another national title after Navarro came out on top that year.
So, when director Greg Whiteley and Cheer returned to see if the team would let their cameras follow them as they geared up for another showdown in Daytona, Florida, they agreed to participate. “We loved how they portrayed our sport,” Johnson says. “So, we definitely didn’t turn it down the second time.”
As Whiteley puts it, “It didn’t take a genius to figure out that we should learn a little more about this team that goes toe to toe with Navarro every year,” he says. “I just think in the efforts of expanding the world in season 2, it was a fairly obvious choice to try and include them.”
And like season 1, which featured a number of breakout stars, season 2 lets a few of the TVCC staff and team members shine. Here’s what audiences need to know about Navarro’s biggest rivals.
Coach Vontae Johnson
A former member of the team and former football player before he turned to cheerleading, Johnson has led the Cardinals for three years and is determined to see TVCC return to its former glory and take home their first national championship title since their back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017.
Unlike Navarro’s head coach, Monica Aldama, Johnson is focused more on skills and precision rather than flair and style. “The stylistic differences between the two teams seem to be a reflection of their coaches. Vontae has a background in very traditional team sports, basketball and football, and I think there is a way that that team approaches the mat that is emblematic of those sports,” Whiteley says.
And the same is true for Aldama. “Monica is somebody who is an avid fan of Dancing With the Stars and it shows in the choreography,” the director continues. “Her and her choreographers have put together routines that have made it not just a technical display of excellence, but also a performance element that hadn’t been in cheerleading before that had come along.”
A strong and passionate leader on the team (“She cares so deeply,” Whiteley says), Wooten is one of the few veterans leading a team of mostly newcomers after the pandemic cut their previous year short.
When it came to figuring out which athletes to follow, Whiteley says that there was no question about Wooten. “There are just certain people that are going to pop,” he says. “I think there was a very broad consensus among the production, even in the first 10 minutes of filming at TVCC, that she’s somebody we had to focus on.”
He adds, “She’s the Michael Jordan of that team.”
Despite being one of the best, Wooten almost left the sport after a nasty fall. But she credits Johnson for coaching her through it.
DeVonte “Dee” Joseph
Joseph is one of several incredibly talented tumblers at TVCC. He’s the only person on the team who can do five twists, which is known as a quint. “I’ve never seen anybody do a quint,” Whiteley says, impressed by Joseph’s athleticism.
Interestingly enough, he was recruited by Navarro but ultimately turned them down for a spot with the Cardinals. One of his reasons for not going with Navarro is the team’s flair, which is something that Joseph is less interested in as an athlete.
While he’s unmatched in skill, he has attitude and performance issues that often clash with Johnson’s efforts to add more style to the team’s routine that the coach believes will finally help them edge out their rival.
Rice is another all-star tumbler on the squad whose skills are unmatched. “With Angel, there is a power that she has that when you’re on the mat filming with her as she’s running by, it’s electric,” Whiteley says in awe.
She’s also a star in the cheering world, with her fame predating her time with the Cardinals. Years before joining the team, Rice’s tumbling went viral, generating headlines all over the internet and even landing her on the Today show, where she set a Guinness World Record by performing 10 double full twists in one minute.
She’s also a member of the USA Gymnastics team, with a focus on tumbling and trampoline. She last competed in the 2018 championships, where she placed fourth.