The IUS Cheerleading team won The Cheer Limited Open College National competition, Saturday, March 21, giving the team and IU Southeast their first national title in any athletic event.
The Grenadier cheerleaders competed against 7 other medium all-girl collegiate squads in one of the largest divisions at the competition, and, in addition to the victory, the IUS cheer squad won the competition’s award for sportsmanship.
Kaelin Abbott, IUS cheerleading head coach and former team captain, said she was impressed by the way her younger Grenadiers outclassed their more seasoned competition.
Out of the 13 girls that competed, 9 are freshman who, only recently, were doing most of their performances at small town, Friday night high school football games or the occasional pep rally.
“Looking at the routine, you would have thought our girls had been cheering together for the past three years,” Abbot said.
In reality, the IUS cheer squad has only practiced together for the past year, with this being their first major competition.
Jennesy McConnell, elementary education freshman, was one of the younger members of the squad at 18 years old.
McConnell had cheered at North Harrison high school with her stepsister, and fellow Grenadier cheerleader, Jessika Otte.
McConnell said that her Otte was a motivating force during practices, and she would point out mistakes to the younger cheerleaders.
According to McConnell, the IUS cheerleaders communicated better than other squads at the competition.
“We were confident going down there, but it really kicked in back stage when we saw how the other teams operated,” McConnell said.
A reason for this unit cohesion could be the unified struggle the girls had to endure to make it to Myrtle Beach.
Aside from the daunting hours of tumbling, running and vaulting, which, according to Abbott, are paramount to a successful routine, each girl had to invest a considerable amount of time into fundraising.
The IU Southeast cheerleaders raised more than $16,000 to support their program this year. By winning the sportsmanship award, they increased their total to $16,500. The extra $500 could go to supplement last year’s budget cuts.
The total budget, taken from your student activity fee, for IU Southeast’s first national champions is exactly $1,000. Or, to put it into perspective, less money than the IUS Student Government Association gets for party food ($600) and advertising ($500).
According to Abbott Pat Mrozowski, IUS athletic director, and Joe Glover, IUS assistant athletic director, helped secure an additional $845 to help the cheer squad pay for uniforms and pom-poms.
Luckily, the IU Southeast cheer squad was able to adapt and overcome the financial shortfall.
The squad was led by Valarie Devore, elementary education senior, who said she has never worked so hard to accomplish something.
“The best part of winning nationals is knowing that we earned it as a squad, and we don’t take anything for granted,” Devore said. “We had this sense that we were all in this thing together.”
Study together, practice together, raise money together and compete together. Somewhere along the line, teamwork was realized.
The IUS cheerleaders will hold a banquet dinner and trophy display to celebrate their victory. The $500 they won for sportsmanship was matched by Cheer Limited and will be disbursed to a charity of the team’s choosing.
By MICHAEL MARCELL