Cheerleading’s recent varsity launch inspires further development

Bethany Blass, Sports Co-Editor

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After recently gaining recognition as a varsity sport, the University’s cheerleading team continues to wow crowds at every home football and basketball game. As the team continues to grow and improve, the cheerleaders are currently preparing to travel to the 2016 UCA College Spirit Camp at the University of Delaware.

“I love being a part of all of the action during football and basketball season, and I truly can’t imagine college without cheerleading,” Delaney Sheetz ’18 said. “I have the most amazing teammates and have made so many memories from cheerleading that will stick with me forever.”

Unique from most other varsity sports at the University, the cheerleading team’s main events are not games, matches, meets, or tournaments. Rather, the cheerleaders focus on perfecting high-flying basket tosses, two-and-a-half high pyramids, group pyramids, and other dances while leading the infamous ’Ray chant. The cheerleading team is featured at all home football and men’s and women’s basketball games, Patriot League and NCAA tournament basketball games, as well as occasional wrestling matches.

For some, the team has served as a second family, full of mentors and the opportunity to learn from others.

“Every moment I have spent with my team has made me not only grow as a cheerleader, but as a person as well,” Lauren Miller ’16 said. “The older members of the team serve not only to help teach the material, like cheers and dances, but also serve as mentors and outlets for the other members of the team. I was able to make life-long friends, and immediately find a group of phenomenal men and women that I knew I could trust to always be there for me and brighten up may days, no matter what I needed to say or how bad my day had been.”

Looking to continue their time as cheer athletes in college, many of the University’s cheerleaders have been active in gymnastics or cheerleading for several years. Tryouts for the team are held in the spring and fall on campus, as well as through video tryouts at the beginning of summer for incoming students.

“I was looking forward to continuing the sport I loved so much growing up, now in college,” Samantha Luzietti ’18 said. “I am really glad that I chose to join this team because we have so much fun together and have all become really close friends.”

In addition to entertaining the crowds with their gymnastic skills, dances, and impressive stunts, the cheerleaders also dedicate time to several practices a week, weight-lifting sessions, and cardio workouts. The team also finds time to participate in numerous community service events in the local community. This year has been a notable one for the cheerleaders, as they have had the chance to lead Bison basketball fans in the famous ’Ray chant at men’s basketball’s National Invitation Tournament (NIT) game, among their other impressive accomplishments.

“This group has had a wonderful year of amazing sporting events and experiences and one that will not soon be forgotten,” coach Megan Lindner said.

“When we put up a new stunt, everyone is focused on each other, working to spot or coach, and celebrate when the stunt hits,” Chris Gregory ’18 said. “At games, we get to be around more athletes, celebrating each Bison through victory or loss. On campus, we are recognized, and recognize other athletes, celebrating every team’s hard work. Being on the cheer team sets a foundation for gain, both personal and team, and through being a part of this team, I have had more confidence and higher self-esteem.”

The newly recognized varsity sport continues to build. According to Lindner, the number of cheerleaders and level of talent increases year after year.

“I am very excited about the direction that the program is headed as I enter my ninth year as the cheerleading coach at [the University]. The squad is progressing nicely and working very hard to help build up our program and gain more recognition,” Lindner said.

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