Former Corbett High cheerleaders gather to root for Cardinals once again
by: Carole Archer, Claudia Urbach Becker, right in white shirt, with bullhorn, leads the crowd in a cheer during the Friday, Jan. 18, girls basketball game against De La Salle High School.

Tom Cowling recalls that it was sometime in the mid-1950s when a female basketball player approached him with a request at Corbett High School.

'She was really disgruntled because the cheerleaders for the boys never came to their games.'

So chivalrous Tom and two of his friends sent away for a book on cheers, practiced a bit, and showed up for a girls' game.

'We proceeded to cheer the girls on for one night. They never invited us back.'

It remains a mystery as to why he and his friends were never asked to again place their spirits at the service of the girls' team.

'Maybe the season was over,' he says with a chuckle.

Nonetheless, Cowling, class of 1956, can now say he's cheered at not one, but three Corbett basketball games, as he was one of more than a dozen 'Retro-Cheerleaders' who showed up for the high school's girls and boys basketball games against Portland's De La Salle High Friday night, Jan. 18.

Corbett alumni from the past half-century were on hand for the games, at which capacity crowds were led in traditional cheers by the graduates. The Corbett Booster Club organized the event, according to Lisa Noreen, an elementary school parent and active volunteer.

Among the highlights of the cheerleading event was the resurrection of the school's 1930s fight song. 'Fight, Fight, Fight, For Our Corbett High!' the song begins.

One of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders was Claudia Urbach Becker, Class of 1963. Becker says she was a cheerleader from 1961-62 and rooted for the football, basketball and track teams. She adds that there were few opportunities for girls to play organized sports then, and cheerleading was a way for girls to be close to the athletic action.

'I really don't think I was a very good cheerleader,' Becker says. 'I was a much better ballplayer than I ever was a cheerleader.'

Becker is the Corbett School District's groundskeeper and has coached girls volleyball and basketball at Corbett Middle School. She is the junior varsity girls softball coach at Corbett High, and during the Retro event, it was announced that she was among the inductees to the school's hall of fame.

'Claudia has a heart for the kids of Corbett and for many years she has done everything from organization of teams, to getting fields game ready, to coaching,' Noreen says. 'She is full of Cardinal spirit and all of the kids love her.'

Louise Ugelstad, from the class of 1961, says the Retro Cheer brought back memories of her three years cheering for the football, basketball and wrestling teams.

'It was one of my favorite things. It gave you something to do. You met a lot of different people, and it was just fun.'

She adds that she was glad the alumni cheerleaders stuck mostly to shouting and kept the movements to a minimum.

'There's no cartwheels or any of that,' she says with a laugh.

Ugelstad did have one somewhat painful memory however. Sometime during her senior or junior year, 'we were doing a yell … When I bent down, my skirt fell off right to the floor. I was embarrassed. I ran right off the floor.'

However, she gathered herself and began cheering again. And realized that she was briefly the most popular girl at Corbett, if not East County.

'The other team liked it, too,' she says laughing.

Janet Altman, who was a cheerleader from 1963-64, also had an embarrassing moment.

'Once during a pep assembly, I was out there cheering and kicked my shoe off out into the stands,' she says, chuckling. 'I think somebody caught it and threw it back to me, if I remember correctly.'

She adds that she had a great time being a cheerleader.

'It was fun to go to all the games, the home games, the away games, and lead the crowd in cheers.'

She says the Retro Cheer night was fun as well.

'I was really impressed with how the fans got into it, and were really cheering along with the retro cheerleaders.'

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