SMU Cheer was awarded first place at the National Cheer Association’s national competition in Daytona, Fla. last week. This is the squad’s third consecutive championship win.
The cheer squad competed in division 1A against 16 college cheer teams from across the country. The first day of the event included the preliminary competition, where the six teams with the lowest scores were eliminated from the competition. On prelims day SMU cheer performed a gameday routine, followed by a competitive routine filled with tumbling, stunts, and dancing.
Nate Williams, senior cheerleader, reminisced on his past performances on the bandshell at prelims and said that it is the most special stage he has ever performed on.
“There is something suspenseful about the elements that makes competing on the bandshell so unique,” Williams said. “In all of the major stages I have performed on throughout my cheer career, there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of the bandshell. The ocean to your left, the hot sun beaming down on you and the sea breeze blowing. It’s an incredible experience.”
Although prelims are exciting, there is an extreme sense of nerves that the cheerleaders experience and have to control. Sophomore cheerleader Sarah Walden described the pressure that comes with that day.
“Prelims is the round that everyone competes in and it determines whether or not you make it to finals the next day,” Walden said. “Everything relies on it.”
SMU’s cheer team ended prelims day in first place. While being in first place was a considerable accomplishment, cheerleader Ashley Anthony explained how their coach emphasized the need to remain humble, because the competition wasn’t over.
“We still had to perform our best the next day,” Anthony said. “The score from day one doesn’t transfer over to day two, so once day one is over it’s a whole new game. Being in first after day one is an intimidating place to be in because everyone below you wants to beat you and is going to try their best to raise their score at finals.”
Finals day was April 6 and held at Daytona’s Ocean Center Arena, which holds over 9,000 people. Williams said that he knew winning finals was a major possibility if they stayed focused, but his main concern was beating their own score from last year.
“Last year we scored the highest score in our division and in SMU history, so coming in for my last year, I wanted to crush that score and make history again,” Williams said. “I remember saying how badly I wanted to score a 97 after prelims and being hungry to make it happen. We always say that we are our biggest competition and in a way we are, so it’s incredibly rewarding to take SMU cheer to the next level and outscore ourselves from the year prior.”
After competing in finals, the cheer team had to wait two hours for the awards ceremony to begin. At the ceremony, places were announced starting from 10th place and finishing at first. The team held hands while the places were called out and anxiously waited for their names.
The cheer team left Daytona with their third national championship in three years, and the highest score SMU Cheer has ever received at a competition. Reminiscing on their win, Anthony repeated how their hard work throughout the year was all worth it.
“It was the most amazing feeling I have ever felt. We gave it all we had,” Anthony said. “10 months of hard work flashed through my mind. I kept saying it was all worth it.”