Kamehameha senior Ku‘ulei Santiago earns UCA All-American honor

Kamehameha senior Ku‘ulei Santiago was selected to the UCA All-American squad. Photo courtesy of Melissa Wennihan.

Ku‘ulei Santiago has dreams.

One of them came true last week when she was selected to the UCA All-American squad. The Kamehameha senior was the lone competitive cheer squad member from Kapalama to earn the honor.

“I feel amazing this is my first time trying out for All-America. To start off I would like to say that it is because of my wonderful Warrior team and coaches that I tried for All American and have always loved cheerleading! No matter what we always stick up for each other and push each other to always to leave it all on the mat,” Santiago said.

The process involved studying the requirements presented by Universal Cheerleading Association, practicing for several days, and filming the routine before sending it to UCA.

“I always wanted to do All-America so when I found out about the dance portion, that’s my favorite. I’ve improved so much over the years,” she said. “My workout routine is limited during the pandemic so as of right now it includes a lot of abs and arms along with some stretching, jumps, and kicks which improve my flexibility, strength, and endurance so that when we get back in season I am prepared.”

The challenge of getting a video produced was different around the country for aspiring cheer athletes. With no actual on-campus facility available during this COVID-19 lockdown, Santiago got creative.

“I actually did the video on top of my garage at home,” she said. “It’s wasn’t tough, necessarily. You just adjust and think of the positive. I would have to do it online for college tryouts.”

Santiago began in the sport as a seventh-grader at Sacred Hearts Academy. She transferred to Kamehameha to begin high school. Some of her former classmates at SHA were also selected to the honor, four Lancers in all.

“Because our squad is big, only seniors try out for All-America (at Kamehameha),” she said.

Santiago has a 3.3 grade-point average and has a dream school.

“This quarter, I have straight A’s. I want to cheer in college. USC is one of my top schools to attend in the fall of 2021,” she said. “I want to major in screen acting and film production, as well as learn more about screenwriting. With All-America, it has brightened my confidence just like my team to always push and adjust through times that aren’t always the best, but will always have a positive outcome.”

Her optimism is a part of Kamehameha’s hope for a return to the throne. Kamehameha won nine state titles — seven in the Large Division and two in the Medium — in a 10-year span. The Warriors haven’t won a state title since the 2009-10 year. They finished fifth in the Medium Division last season.

“Not winning a state title throughout my high school career I had hoped that this year would be the year to work harder as a team and as Warriors representing Kamehameha, trying to reach for that No. 1 spot. However, I would give anything just to be in the gym practicing with my Warrior family,” Santiago said. “It is definitely pressure being one of the seniors on a varsity team because so many of the younger teammates look up to you so it’s your job to show them how to improve and motivate each other especially during times like these.”

Lockdown staples

Top 3 movies/shows

1. “Endless Love” (2014).

2. “Harry Potter” series.

3. The Vampire Diaries 

Top 3 food/snack/drink

1. Homemade baked ziti.

2. Homemade banana bread.

3. Liliha Bakery coco puffs.

Top 3 music artists

1. Khalid.

2. Jeremy Zucker

3. Kehlani.

New life skill

Santiago: “Baking from scratch and proper grocery shopping for my family. I’ve been baking since I was seventh grade, but during quarantine I have been improving my skills by baking from scratch, which I was taught by my aunt (Melanie Ching) and mom (Shireen Santiago).”

Shout outs

Santiago: “Yes! Shoutout to my whole entire Warrior family at Kamehameha, especially my team and coaches, Coach Melissa (Wennihan), Coach Kanani (Kekuawela) and Coach Faye (Aki). As well as my mom and my grandparents (Patricia and Mansfield Montizor). It is thanks to these people that I am constantly waking up everyday motivated to do and be better.”


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