The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Cheerleaders look to make a splash at nationals

Dance team also looks to return to championship form after last year

“If you’re not in it to win it, then why try at all?” Scott Simari, a sophomore on the SMU cheerleading team explained as the team executed a nearly flawless performance in front of nearly 200 fans at Moody Coliseum over the weekend.

As the team prepares for the National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla., the 20 members of the co-ed cheer team have been focused on winning. After clinching seventh place in the small co-ed division last year, the Mustangs will return to the sunny Daytona Beach Bandshell to prove why they are the best college cheerleading team in the nation.

As members of the small co-ed division, SMU’s 16 females and four males pour all their talent, dedication, effort and soul into a 2:30 routine jam packed with action. Bubbling over with a variety of gymnastics passes, standing back flips, pyramids two stories high, contorted body positions being pulled in the air and an upbeat dance routine, preparing for their brief moment in the spotlight did not come easy.

“Lately all of our practices have been focused on conditioning,” said Sara Bedford, a junior and third-year member of the team. “Conditioning is confidence, and confidence is key to winning any championship.”

The Mustangs will face a tough competition this season with first-place Oklahoma State and runner-up Louisville returning to the small co-ed division. Preliminary rounds will be on April 10, with finals following on April 11. Should the Mustangs fail to qualify for finals in the prelims, they can enter the Challenge Cup Competition, and with a first-place trophy from that competition, move on to finals.

“I am not going to lie, I wish we had another week to condition the routine more, but I feel the team is right on track for competition,” said coach Zac Brannon. “I think we will peak at the right time. With the increase in requirements to be on the team, it has helped make us more competitive. We cover the score sheet well and have amazing choreography. I am excited to see the students in action in Daytona Beach.”

One pyramid, coined the “dive of death,” is sure to catch the judges’ watchful eyes. “It’s kind of like you throw the girls up, they do a back walkover, they go over their head into a flip, we chuck them back up, reverse the legs, chuck it back up again and do a 360 [degree turn] to liberty,” explained senior Cassie Thiessen. To see this pyramid in action, should SMU win its division, the routine will be featured on ESPN’s coverage of the event.

So what does it take to be the girl flying through the air? Sophomore Carolyn Taricco, the girl shining brightly on the top of each pyramid, explained, “It’s really not scary being on the top. Everyone else below me makes it work, and it all just comes together. It’s cool getting to see everyone involved and building something together.”

With tensions bound to be running high as the team starts the one-week countdown until its departure to Daytona, many athletes are more anxious than nervous to make their debut. Jake Murray, a freshman on the team, said, “It’s going to be very exciting because it’s a higher level of competition than I’m used to, and it’s outside. It’s definitely more fun than other competitions I’m used to competing in.”

With daily practices and conditioning routines, frustrations, injuries and other maladies are bound to arise. Fortunately for SMU, this specific group of athletes considers themselves more of a family than a group of people sharing a common interest, making it easier than most would believe to work and spend so much time together.

“I feel really good about the team,” said Simari. “Everyone has a really positive attitude at practice. Everything is just getting better and better as we get closer to leaving, and we continue to bond as a squad.”

For the dance team, things are a little different. After winning the open division in 2006, the dancers faced a hefty penalty after judges found an issue with the team’s costumes. With a united theme of “one,” the team is dedicated their season to one goal – to win first place.

“We just really wanted to be united as one team with one mission to get first place,” said captain Amy Reese. “[The theme] encompasses everything. Our goal is to work together as a team.”

At the National Dance Alliance competition, the dancers are judged on creativity, choreography, showmanship, skill execution and synchronization. Practices consist of combining turns, leaps and other motions in a fluid and fun manner, while also making sure each member is perfectly in time with one another.

“Practices have been crazy and intense,” said Reese. “It’s been a lot of teamwork, a lot of critiquing each other, and seeing and figuring out what works best for our team.”

Focused on proving to the judges that they can bounce back to championship caliber after last season’s misfortune, the women have all agreed to give nothing less than 110 percent at practices and performances. As they performed on Sunday, a whirl of purple overtook the crowd as the dancers fluidly transitioned from one formation to another, between high and low level changes, and executed turns and leaps with perfect form.

Along with the smooth velvet of their uniforms, the smiles on the women’s faces proved how passionate they are about their performances. “We want to go show the people at NDA what we’re really made of. We were really disappointed after last year, and now just want to bring back the national title again,” explained Reese.

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