Cheerleading Team Takes Nationals
Team Competes in Nationals For the First Time
By Sullivan Burgess ’20
On Jan. 17, the Providence College Cheerleading Team traded in their snow boots for sandals and sunscreen as they headed down to the magical world of Disney for the school’s first appearance at the UCA College Cheering National Championship in Orlando, Florida. While the overall experience was amazing, the journey to the competition was something unlike anyone on the team has ever experienced.
The team was able to practice all throughout winter break and utilize the extra sessions to finalize and perfect its routine for the competition. On days off, they were able to mentally prepare for what was in store in Florida and manage the pressure to be positive throughout the performance.
When it came to preparing for the trip, Assistant Coach Dan Weaver knew the challenges the team faced, and helped them prepare for something the team has never seen before in the school’s history. Yet, he had ultimate confidence. “As a first-year team, our mindset was unlike some of the other teams that have been competing for years,” Weaver stated. “They perform in the Dunk and Madison Square Garden in front of thousands of people. They can handle anything. And when we opened up the routine by hitting our elite hand-in-hand stunt sequence, I knew Providence Cheerleading had arrived.”
One of the biggest challenges when going into a competition like this, is facing the big name schools who have been in the competition before. Going into the event, Coach Melissa Scungio was excited for the team to enjoy this experience, while at the same time become comfortable with the idea of one day being on that stage as national champions. She stated, “It is amazing to be able to compete at the same level as some of the high profile teams in our Division such as University of Memphis, Purdue University, University of Delaware, Bowling Green State University, and University of Alabama-Birmingham. These teams have been competing at this level for years (some over 15-20 years). With that being said, and this being our first year, we were unbelievably proud and excited to be representing Providence College on this prestigious level. Our expectations were different than theirs, those top schools are competing for a National Championship. We are not there yet. As we grow, our expectations will continue to rise, and one day Providence College Cheerleaders will be competing for a National Championship.”
At Disney World, the team stayed for four days at the Disney All Star Resort. They were able to explore the resort and meet other teams from around the country. Between practice times and competition, the resort provided shuttles to the parks so the teams could enjoy a true Disney experience, go on all the rides, and see iconic locations.
As a team, they were able to watch the partner stunt competition and Division 1A finals. While the cheerleading team itself was on the mat for roughly two minutes and 30 seconds and did not to advance to the final, they succeeded in their own way by managing the life of a student-athlete, preparing for the basketball games, and getting ready for the team’s overall first competition.
The advice given by Taylor Dimond ’19 was simple when it comes to preparing for next year, “Going into next year, and future competitions, we definitely want to step our difficulty up…Yet this was a great place to start and we are only going to get even stronger from this point.”
Overall, this is a big step for the improvement for the cheerleading team that anticipates a bright future.
The Unsung Heroes of Sports
by Liza Sisk ’19
Imagine attending a Providence College basketball game where every fan is sitting in their seat for the entirety of the game, and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is absolutely silent. This depressing scene could be reality if it was not for the unsung heroes of Providence College athletics: the Cheerleading Team. The cheerleading team works tirelessly to cultivate the ideal atmosphere in which other Friar athletes are able to thrive. The team is responsible for keeping the basketball games entertaining and exciting as well as keeping the fans engaged in the game. Not only do they interact with the fans, they also prove themselves to be incredible athletes through their routines and performances.
The cheerleading team is made up of 20 athletes, four boys and 16 girls, and is lead by two captains, Nicki Jones ’17 and Alex Jones ’17, as well as a coaching staff of three. The team is selected each year through a tryout process consisting of opportunities for the athletes to show off their stunting abilities, jumps, running tumbles, and spiriting. Each candidate is required to execute a standing backflip, and a round-off back handspring or round-off back handspring back tuck. Everyone on the team participates in the tryout each year.
The typical week on the cheer team is comprised of two practices and one game. The team is present at all home men’s and women’s basketball games. They also have the opportunity to travel with the team to New York City for the Big East Conference Tournament each year. The team currently does not compete regularly, however, last year they qualified for the National Cheer Association Nationals Competition. Unfortunately, the team was unable to raise the funds to attend, but are looking to qualify and make the trip this spring. Under a new coaching staff, the team is incredibly focused on strengthening their program. They are looking forward to participating in more competitions, qualifying for nationals, and proving themselves to be worthy contenders.
Chris Mathews ’17 is one of five athletes on the team graduating this year. Over the course of his four years as a friar cheerleader he was able to witness the team “transform from something alright, to something great.” Mathews said, “[The] new coach has a vision of the team that will carry it farther than we thought it could over the next few years.” Mathews stressed the importance of teamwork and communication in a sport like cheerleading. He explained that “everyone has each other’s back…in the stunts and outside of practice. We physically have to work together to make something happen and that really contributes to the strong team aspect of the group.” Mathews went on to explain that, in his opinion, the most rewarding part of being on the team is “when you see someone hit a stunt they’ve been working on all week and everyone goes crazy, the whole team notices.”