Campus Currents

Aiming High
Cheerleading looks to the nationals

Bookmark and Share
Easy to print version

The cheerleader pulls her leg back like a bow behind her back and leans forward with her torso still as a poised arrow. Her other foot is fixed in her teammates' hands below, and in a few beats of a quiet count they toss her into the air.

She is what they call a flyer, and this is her dismount. She increases the difficulty by flipping frontward or backward, or by spinning horizontally into the cradle of her teammates' arms.

Increasing the difficulty is what it's all about for UNH cheerleaders today. On the sidelines you see them rolling out the padded mats to practice the riskier moves that will be rewarded by judges at the National Cheerleading Association championships.

That competition takes place in April in Daytona Beach, Fla., every year. It's the largest dance and cheerleading event in the world, and it takes place on an elevated stage in front of a roaring crowd of 10,000 spectators. Last year 231 teams competed.

This championship has become the exclamation point to the UNH cheerleading team's year, and looking at the success they've had, it's not surprising. In 2008, the team finished seventh in its division. The following year they pulled off a fifth place finish. Last year, in a new division, they came in second.

Cheerleading is not a varsity sport at UNH—or at most other schools—so to make the trip to Florida, the team has to raise its own funds. Fortunately, for the last three years they have earned part of the trip's cost by winning a regional event in Boston.

Former coach Shauna Norris Foley '96 says cheerleaders today have remarkable body control that comes from their gymnastics skills—most arrive at UNH with five to 10 years of experience. "In terms of the gymnastics skills, and what they do for stunting, for pyramids, tosses—it's completely changed," says Foley, who was a UNH cheerleader in the mid-'90s. "The difficulty has increased probably 10-fold."

The championship has turned the cheerleading season into a year-round pursuit. When the football season ends, the team goes on to cheer at the men's and women's basketball games and women's volleyball games. In the second semester, it's not unusual for the team to practice or cheer every day. Coach Jackie Briggs '06 choreographs the two-and-a-quarter minute fast-paced routine that addresses each of the six scoring categories: partner stunts, pyramids, tosses, jumps, tumbling and a category called motion/dance.

"Doing the NCA routine is like sprinting as fast as you can for two-and-a-quarter minutes," says captain Lindsey Marshall '11. "The biggest thing about this team is stamina." That, and increasing the difficulty.

blog comments powered by Disqus