This past weekend, Pitt State’s cheer team finished third in the Universal Cheer Association (UCA)/Universal Dance Association (UDA) National Championship. The championship was held Jan. 18- 20 in Orlando, Florida. Pitt State’s cheer team participated in the coed large Cheer Division II.
Linda Graham, spirit squad sponsor, said she loved representing PSU on a national level.
“Knowing you have one of the best cheer teams in the nation, is very satisfying,” Graham said.
Kinsey Stephens, a freshman in nursing, has been on the cheer team since last April.
“To have earned third place at nationals means the world to everyone that stepped foot on the mat,” Stephens said. “… coming from such a small school that people haven’t heard of means we had something to prove.”
The PSU cheer team finished in the top three in last year’s competition as well, so it was important for the team to place in the top three again, Stephens said.
“It’s crazy to leave nationals knowing that people have now heard of Pittsburg State,” Stephens said.
In order to be eligible to attend Nationals again, Graham said “sending in video and placing high in last year’s competition.”, helped in the process. The cheer team stayed on campus at Pitt State over the winter holiday practicing, while other students returned home for the break. The team began training for competition in the summer, then over the fall and winter, they began morning weights at 6 a.m. to condition their bodies for the routine they would be given.
“We definitely step up on training a lot when preparing for nationals,” Stephens said. “Once time got closer we started practicing every day in the morning. Most days we practiced three to four hours.”
Grahams said the routine performed was chosen and choreographed as “a collaborative effort from coaches and team.”
In order to boost morale leading up to Nations, Grahams said they would always provide food for them at practices. Additionally, they would take part in various team building activities such as going bowling or seeing movies. Right before the performance is when nerves would set in, according to Stephens.
“Everyone gets slightly nervous before competing,” Stephens said. “As a team, we try to remind each other to turn those nerves into excitement. Once the music turns on to perform, all the nerves kinda go away and your body just takes over.”
Once the team received the news that they had placed third, Stephens said she felt excited and relieved.
“This team worked so incredibly hard and faced multiple big setbacks this season,” Stephens said. “…to receive a top 3 placement means all our hard work and hours spent in and out of practice we’re all worth it. Being rewarded for your hard work is an exciting feeling.”
To celebrate, the team had the opportunity to spend time at Disney World and spend time together as a team.
“After it’s all said and done you realize you won’t ever compete with his exact team again.” Stephens said. So as a team we thought the best way to celebrate was to just spend some time together in Disney having fun.”