By Maxime Devillaz
Co-Editor in Chief
On Friday, April 8, the cheerleading team placed second at the National Cheerleading Association College Championships in the Intermediate Small Co-Ed Division II category at Daytona Beach, Fla., marking a school best in its mere second appearance.
But the road was rugged, even before the team reached competition. Just three weeks to go, talents began dropping out. “We ended up losing four people that were originally a part of our routine, and that’s huge,” said head coach Katelin Townsend. “And it’s not like we lost all four on the same day; we lost one, a week later, we lost another one.”
Injuries are always a big set back,” said Katie Ventrella, a senior Business Marketing major. “While you can’t replace someone because of skills, we had to work together and modify the routine to make the performance the best we could.”
Kicking off with the preliminary performance on Wednesday, April 6, the team came up shy with lots of big mistakes, according to Townsend, which in cheerleading deducts points from the overall performance. Thus, they placed dead last in the division, without a spot in the finals. Their only option: a few hours of rest before going into Challenge Cup. It was time for Townsend and her staff to rekindle a winning spirit.
“I try to learn how to motivate,” Townsend said. “We tried to be sentimental.” So she brought forward a quote booklet with notes that she’d collected from family members and friends of the talents prior to departure. “This was done to give them that little bit of extra motivation, and to remind them how many people were behind them and routing them on,” said assistant coach Matthew Blanar.
“We read them and were just really focused, and we hit everything,” said Dylan Silva, a sophomore Business Management major. “It was an amazing performance.” The team tied for first place, which meant a golden ticket to the final round.
Following the turnaround on Thursday night, Blanar gave each talent a pink heart. “This was to symbolize the love that we have for them as coaches as well as the love they should have for each other on the floor,” he said. “It was so that in those moments when you doubt yourself, or in that moment when all you need is a ‘you got it’ they could look down at their left shoe and get that support and motivation.
“We placed them on our left shoe because it represents the side that your heart’s on,” Silva explained. “And every time we were on the mat, we looked down and it reminded us of our family.”
To Silva and his teammates, there was only one thing in mind. “I’ve never been so focused in my life. You could feel the emotion when you were on the mat.”
“After we hit our routine at Finals I don’t think there was one person that wasn’t crying of happiness,” said Kelly Carey, a forensic science major. The Pioneers had gone from dead last to national second in a matter of two days.
Prior to leaving, the team had doubled up on practices to prepare for a tight schedule. “Our coaches had us do morning practices and night practices in case, so our bodies were used to it,” Silva said. “We would sometimes do night practice from 8 pm to 11 pm, or even midnight, and then practice again at 6 am.”
Townsend admits that it’s difficult to work hard at practice everyday not knowing if the potential to make a difference is measurable. “So I’m really glad they came second because now they know I wasn’t lying to them that they can win the national championship,” she said, giggling.
Some of the returning talents already look ahead. “I expect a lot of hard work and even more determination for the upcoming years,” said Miranda Alldaffer, a biomedicine/clinical laboratory science major. “Getting second by only 0.4 of a point definitely makes us more hungry for that national title.”
Townsend has her mind set, too. “Next year we are winning the national championship,” she said. “And we’re coming back from Daytona with order forms for those rings.”