Alissa De Smet’s late-bloomer charge to All-American status

Senior co-captain Alissa De Smet became a UCA All-American in her first try this year, joining three Sacred Hearts Academy teammates on the squad. Photo courtesy of Jessica Baliares.

Alissa De Smet is part of the state championship dynasty at Sacred Hearts Academy, but until last week, she didn’t quite know the extent of her talent.

The senior was selected to the UCA All-American team, one of four Lancers on the varsity competitive cheer squad honored. Cayla Cabanban, Jacelyn Tanuvasa and Andromeda Tong were also chosen to the national honors.

“It’s very different to be doing it. This is my first year trying out for All-American,” De Smet said. “Sort of because being a senior, I was, I really hope I make it. I saw my teammates do it last year, so that gave me a boost. If they can do it, I can do it, too. I feel very honored and happy because UCA is really well-known. Knowing me and my teammates made it makes me feel really proud to represent my school.”

Lancers coach Cadey Vakauta has major respect for the senior co-captain.

“This girl represents everything I believe a Lancer should be. She did not have the skills coming onto the team, but worked so hard to get them in order to compete against the best of the best. I never need to tell her how much reps to put in because she won’t stop until she gets it,” Vakauta said. “She never complains and her heart is so pure. Her attitude, faith and respect for everyone around her will take her anywhere she wants to go in life.”

De Smet has a 3.7 grade-point average and has a dream destination for college: NYU.

“If it doesn’t happen this year, hopefully, in the future I can do it,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept students off campus since March in Hawaii.

“In the beginning, the workout routine was an adjustment for me. To substitute lifting weights and doing stunts, we were given workouts to do daily so that we could stay fit,” De Smet said. “Our coach would also give us a certain number of tumbling to do so we could keep putting in our reps. It was hard because I didn’t have access to a yard, so I would go to the nearest open park and tumble there.”

Now, the team has been entrenched in Zoom workouts that involve cardio, jumping and tumbling.

“It’s not what we’re used to, but we make do with what we have in the best way we can,” she said.

Embracing the program’s tradition and success — three consecutive Medium Division state titles — was a thrill.

“When I joined the team my sophomore year, right after the first year they won, I didn’t really know what to expect. I feel that there was pressure going into that season because there was a title to defend. With that came a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s not all about winning. It’s about continuously working hard and pushing yourself and your teammates to be the best they can be,” De Smet said. “Expectations grow higher each year and there really isn’t any room for slacking.”

Lockdown staples

Top 3 movies/shows

1. The Vampire Diaries.

2. Oceans 12.

3. The Office.

Top 3 food/snack/drink

1. Milk tea with boba.

2. Spaghetti or anything noodles.

3. Korean BBQ.

Top 3 music artists

1. Beyonce.

2. Frank Ocean.

3. SZA.

New life skill

De Smet: “During quarantine I learned from my mom (Marissa Ramos) how to make pancit, which was really exciting because that’s one of my favorite Filipino foods.”

Shout outs

De Smet: “Shout out to my coaches and my teammates, my family and friends for their support and everything. They’ve made a big impact and help in this entire process.”


  1. Becky O’Reilly September 24, 2020 1:04 pm

    Alissa is an amazing girl!! Such a hard worker with a great attitude. So proud of her & wish her all the very best!

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