Cheerleaders chant to fifth

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MARY BOVE/THE HIGHLANDER

Sophomore Sarah Richards tries to get the fans to cheer along during a basketball game.

Gabriella Lengyel, Reporter

The cheerleading team had two minutes and thirty seconds to land every jump and tumble, to hit every move and stunt perfectly. The team placed fifth in the nation in the Division II All Girls category at the Univer- sal Cheerleading Association (UCA) College National Com- petition in Orlando, Florida. The squad worked extra hard to ensure their success against 100 other teams from all over the country.

To qualify each team has to submit two video tapes worth a total of 15 points toward the final score at the end of the semi-final round. One, known as the “crowd tape,” showed the team cheering at games and doing community service. The other exhibited stunt safety and proper technique.

Captain Amber Schmidt, junior, said she is proud of the team’s ranking. “People say to us, ‘Oh, fifth place, that’s too bad, you were so close,’ but to us, this is first place. Especial- ly with the schools we were up against. As a [Division Three] school competing against all Division Two schools, there is a disadvantage,” Schmidt said.

The Cougars were three- tenths of a point away from taking fourth place, despite the odds. MU Cheer has competed in the UCA College Nationals for the past three years—but this was the first year the team made it to the finals. “We were always that next team that would have made it. To have come this far, we really are so proud of the girls,” Schmidt said.

Head Coach Tara Sinclair made the routine much more difficult this year by incorpo- rating elite stunts. “One of our main goals was to achieve a stunt called the College Re- wind, and we ended up getting four into the routine,” said Kayla Whipple, senior and captain. The girls’ challenging stunts stood out to the judges. “We also added an extra practice devoted to tumbling, and two girls who have never tumbled before ended up tum- bling in the routine,” Whipple said. The team came back from winter break a week earlier than the rest of the student body to practice the routine and make it as perfect as pos- sible. The captains also began enforcing hour-and-a-half conditioning practices twice a week with the hope these additional workouts would improve the girls’ overall strength.

Aside from developing new skills and accomplishing new stunts while balancing practices, games, community service projects, and competi- tions, the team managed to accumulate an average of a 3.4 GPA for the fall semester. Maintaining this level of aca- demic achievement was one of the goals the team worked towards together.

Whipple and Schmidt said the team is looking for more competitions before they close out the season, but until then they will be spreading the spirit on campus and improv- ing the program for cheerlead- ers to come.