Cheerleading Finishes Fourth


Members of the National Championship team complete a routine on the big stage as a judge looks on.

Melanie Quintanilla, Multimedia Editor

   The squad finished in fourth place at the Universal Cheerleading Association National Championships at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fl.

   After nine appearances at the national championship, this is the squad’s sixth time advancing to the final round. The Cougars have also advanced to the finals in each of their last five seasons.

   The Cougars competed in the Open All-Girl Division against Division III institutions and community colleges throughout the country.

   “I am really proud of this team because they put the hardest routine out. We say this every year because our program continues to get better and better, and whether our placement has improved really depends on how we do that day,” said head coach Tara Sinclair.

   Two senior captains, DPT graduate student Erica Moore and biochemistry major Gina Baiamonte, are very proud of their team’s accomplishments  this season.

   “We have worked hard and dedicated so much time building the skills necessary to put our competition routine together. Advancing to finals and placing top five in the nation for the Open All-Girl division is a great achievement,” said Baiamonte.

   Moore said that every year the squad attends the national championship, they face more and more competition, and the Open All-Girl division continues to grow.

   “We were able to make the final round of competition every year, which is our primary goal each season. As a program, we have grown tremendously just in the past four years. The difficulty of our routine increases every year and we have developed many new skills as a team since I first started as a freshman,” said Moore.

   The girls’ routine at nationals is two-and-a-half minutes long. The first 45 seconds consists of a cheer, while the rest of the time was dedicated to music with dancing, stunting pyramids and basket tosses. Those two parts are scored heavily. Afterwards, judges score overall impressions.

   “It’s a really intense two-and-a-half minutes,” Sinclair said.

   The team committed hours to practicing their routine.

   “We did nine days of doubles or triples just to condition our bodies, so we were in the gym for five to eight hours every single day,” said Sinclair.

   The cheerleaders recorded their routine and held tape review sessions to allow the coaches and members of the team to offer suggestions to strengthen their performance.

   The squad also had the opportunity to showcase their routine and participate in an open practice with other collegiate teams from the northeast area at a UCA competition in Bridgewater, NJ  in January.

   “This was a great opportunity for members of our team to experience what it is like to perform in front of a crowd. All of our work and preparation gave us the confidence that we needed to perform at nationals,” said Baiamonte.

   Not only did they concentrate on perfecting their routine in those nine days before nationals, the team prepared all throughout the season.

   “We come together as a team in August at UCA camp where we learn new skills. Before school starts, we have a week of preseason where we prepare material for football games and work on new stunts. Throughout the fall semester, we practice three to four days a week and have choreography sessions to prepare our nationals routine,” said Moore.

   Members also have to attend two conditioning sessions.

   Sinclair said she is proud of her team for “all of their accomplishments and pushing the program forward and doing more difficult and creative things.”

   The two captains and the rest of the seniors put in huge efforts to help the team reach their accomplishments.

   “The captains led the team on the court and in sets, but they are also huge motivators to the team in doing small things that push the team and giving them little motivating gifts,” said Sinclair.

   Sinclair said the seniors show great leadership skills and she is “proud of the work ethic of this team because it is phenomenal.”

   In order to qualify for nationals, the girls must meet many arduous requirements. They have to provide a skills tape, which demonstrates the team’s techniques and adherence to safety guidelines.

   They must also submit a crowd tape, which shows the team’s ability to lead the crowd, and they must prove their involvement on campus and in the community. They must produce a minimum of three to four clips that demonstrate the team’s community service projects but “we are naturally active in the community, so we could probably show about eight or nine clips,” said Sinclair.

   The crowd tape is worth 15 percent of the team’s score in the semifinal round.

   The Cougars landed in fifth place in the semi-finals round. In order to move up in ranking, the team has to take the feedback from the judges and make adjustments to their routine.

   “When we got out there, we faced deductions and we had minor bobbles in our semi-performance. It really is a lot to take in. It is a really nice venue and a really big stage to be on, and I think we came out a bit nervous and we did not execute the kind of confidence that we needed for the judges to immediately say ‘wow,’” said Sinclair.

   The squad’s final performance “was better than the semi-finals performance” but they faced more deductions, said Sinclair. If the team had not lost the points, they would have placed third.

   Still, Sinclair said they performed the most difficult routine the program has ever done. She said it was creative and included pyramid transitions and demonstrated flipping skills in and out of pyramids. She added that their cheer was the highest scoring cheer in the competition.

   “Overall in our performance, I wish we could have really hit that day. We had great warm-ups like behind the scenes we were really clicking and moving, but there were the smallest of things like timing issues and syncing. Overall, it was great, for it is the smallest things that set the top teams apart,” said Sinclair.

   She said the goal isn’t to win the national championship.

   “It is about building strong women because that is really what the program is about.”