SMU’s Cheer and Pom squads hosted the annual nationals showcase March 29 at the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.
College teams from around the Dallas area, such as the University of North Texas and University of Texas at Dallas, participated in the showcase in preparation for National Cheer Association college nationals.
Sophomore and SMU cheerleader Ashley Anthony said nationals is what they work for all season and the showcase is a way to present their hard work to their home crowd.
“Nationals is the peak of our season, it’s the thing we work towards all year and it’s our final time coming together and performing,” Anthony said. “It means a lot for us to see all of our friends and families here supporting us and sending us off.”
The NCA cheerleading nationals takes place in Daytona, Fla. April 5-6. For the SMU cheer team the entire trip lasts about a week, but the competition itself is two days. The week consists of practice, competition, awards ceremonies, and a banquet.
“We perform in front of a huge crowd and there are colleges from all over the country there. It’s just a really special time,” Anthony said.
The showcase is used as a dress rehearsal for all of the teams to get their nerves out before heading to Daytona. SMU’s cheer team performed last to conclude the cheer portion of the showoff.
Lisa Ventresca, an attendee of the showcase, appreciated that Dedman was filled with intense energy and excitement throughout the entire showcase.
“It was high-energy the entire time and everyone was super supportive of each other,” Ventresca said. “From the stands I could see cheerleaders from other schools supporting and cheering for the team out on the mat. All of the teams were intense but it was still evident how much fun everyone was having.”
For the seniors, the showcase was a bittersweet experience. SMU cheer captain and senior Tess Balentine was emotional about her final performance on campus.
“It’s really sad because it is the last time I’ll perform on SMU’s campus, but I’m super excited. I think it’s the first time I’ve been more excited about the showoff than nervous,” Balentine said.
Balentine joined SMU’s cheer team having never cheered before and is extremely grateful for the experience the program has provided.
“I don’t think I would get the opportunity to do this anywhere else. We get to cheer for division one football and attend March Madness and a lot of people don’t get that chance. Then being able to compete in Daytona is unlike anything else,” Balentine said.
Both Balentine and Anthony have dedicated countless hours to the cheer program and consider it an extremely unique team.
“The dedication and heart that everyone has on the team is so special. Everyone loves SMU so much and wants to represent it so well,” Anthony said.
The cheer team will leave for Daytona on April 3. After hitting a perfect routine at the showoff, the members of the team feel ready and prepared for nationals.
“I’m going into nationals confident and ready to bring back to SMU a championship ring for the third year in a row,” Anthony said.