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Popp takes girls to the top Allison K. Sampite | Tue, Feb 22 2011 12:00 PM

Eastlake Cheer coach Casey Popp is a well-respected man around campus. Since 2009, he's led Eastlake High School to the district championships and won the most prestigious honor a cheer squad can receive.

Popp first began cheerleading at the end of his sophomore year in high school after a falling out with his baseball coach. He never dreamed his career would be in cheerleading.

"I tried other sports, but nothing else took," he said. "A few girls I had class with and one big football guy were on the cheerleading team and they said I should try out." Popp talked a few of his friends into trying out with him and he never looked back.

"I was sort of a big ham - always painting my face at the football games," Popp said.

"I didn't think it would go anywhere but at the end of my senior year, someone from Clairemont High called and asked if my school had anyone who had an interest in coaching."

Popp took the job after graduating from Madison High School in 1993 and started his own cheerleading business called West Coast Mavericks a few years later.

Today, that same company is called Cheer Force.

Since 2009, Popp has helped Eastlake win varsity level competitions and become grand champions.

"He cleaned them up and made them look good," said junior varsity coach Katie Romero.

Popp said he was upfront about who he is. "I set goals with them and say this is who I am and this is how hard we're going to work," he said.

At the Spirit Sports competition in Palm Springs two weeks ago, Eastlake competed against Granite Hills from East County and beat them, earning the title of national champions and grand champions. Granite Hills is the top team in the county.

Robert Blas is the Eastlake cheer advisor and said Popp is the reason for Eastlake's success.

"Those girls can eat you alive if you let them," Blas said. "But Popp commands respect and discipline from the girls."

Desiree Jarin, 17, is a senior and was voted most valuable player by her peers as a sophomore and junior varsity cheerleader. She is also the spirit officer and a co-captain.

"I've been a cheerleader since I was 6 and ever since then I've known of coach Popp," Jarin said. "He influences us to make sure we're the best team out there."

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that since Eastlake High School cheer coach Casey Popp took over the program in 2009, Hilltop High School has not won district competitions.

Hilltop High School tied Eastlake for first place in 2009 and won their division this year.

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