Cheerleading captains shine a light for La Jolla Country Day School; excelling in sports and academics

By Ed Piper

Senior varsity cheer captains,

Hadiyah Muhammad


Jenne Ratto-Murray

, are stars in the

La Jolla Country Day School

constellation. Both seniors pursue cheer, sports and/or a job outside of school besides holding down full scholastic loads in the classroom.

The pair, though very different in interests and goals for the future, demonstrate poise, leadership and industriousness in their varied high school schedules.

“When I first came (to LJCD), I was a bit shy because I didn’t know anyone,” Muhammad said. “I tried out for the cheer team and I made varsity my freshman year. I was so excited. It was easy to make friends. School was challenging academically, but the teachers were there to help me, so I was able to keep up with my grades and tests.”

Ratto-Murray, a Torrey since sixth grade, took a different path. She said she is thrilled by, among other things, her AP classes in psychology and neuroscience because the classes complement each other. One subject the class has already delved into is sleep and dreams. How many high schools offer a course in neuroscience?

Muhammad and Ratto-Murray, both 17, are among four other seniors on the squad, big sisters to 18 other cheerleaders this fall, in a limited edition of head coach

Kathy Davis

’ team. The squad completed its run with LJCD’s CIF football playoff game Nov. 15. Due to lack of numbers for cheer in the winter, a dance squad will take over to perform at winter sports events.

Other seniors on the varsity team are

Lizzie Martel, Ryan Mehregany, Mayra Nunez


Brittany Williams


“In my experience, this is the closest cheer team we’ve ever had,” Davis said fondly. She is an LJCD alumna and was a two-time cheer captain in her Torrey days. “I have known many of my cheerleaders for four years now, and have seen them grow as cheerleaders and as people.”

Muhammad, who also plays basketball and track (combining the 100-meter, triple jump and long jump) proudly points out that the three boys on the cheer squad (

Miggy Gomez

, Mehregany and

Brendon Grepo

) can all do “one-man chairs” — holding up a girl single-handedly while she sits on his hand. “We have to look beautiful for the crowd, but behind the scenes, we literally practice five-to-six hours on one thing, for two days,” Muhammad said. “We get injured, like sprained ankles. I broke my finger.”

The cheerleaders don’t sponsor a specific service charity, Ratto-Murray explained, but they do mentor the Tiny Torreys, students from the LJCD Lower School, kindergarten through fourth grade.

“We teach them a dance and a cheer, and they perform at halftime of the Homecoming game,” she said. “They love us, we love them. It’s a way to connect with the kids at Lower School.”

While Muhammad is looking to attend the Arts Academy in San Francisco next year and continue running track, Ratto-Murray’s dream school would be New York University to pursue a music business major. That could lead to managing a band, working at a recording label, or scouting talent.