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The Mass Media

UMass Boston cheerleading is ready for Nationals in Daytona

Mass+Boston+cheerleaders+perform+in+the+Campus+center.+Photo+from+instagram+%28%40umassbostoncheer%29.

Mass Boston cheerleaders perform in the Campus center. Photo from instagram (@umassbostoncheer).

On March 26, the Clark basketball court was covered with a tumbling mat. The UMass Boston Competitive Cheer Team was holding their home sendoff, a performance for friends and family of the routine they will do at College Nationals.

College Nationals is a four-day competition in Daytona, Fla. where colleges across the country compete for the national title. The event gained global attention after the three-time Emmy winner Netflix series “Cheer,” showed the prestige the competition has among college cheerleading teams. The show followed the hardships and triumphs of the cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas as they prepared for Daytona (1).

Members of the UMass Boston cheerleading team warmed up doing backflips and front handsprings across the lengths of the mat. They encouraged each other enthusiastically. All of them wore black uniforms, with “Beacons” written across the top in dark blue letters and outlined in white.

Moments after, a group aligned in the top right corner holding a Beacon flag. The music started; it had the marked cheer beat to synchronize everybody’s movements. The group quickly took over the mat, organizing into synchronized jumps and organizing themselves into a pyramid.

It was clear to everyone at Clark Athletic Center that the team had been working hard and were ready to represent the Beacons in Daytona, one of the largest cheerleading stages in the country.

Head Coach Katie Armstrong stood at the sideline cheering the girls on the mat. Coach Armstrong is an admissions counselor at the university. She was a UMass Boston student; at that time, the university didn’t have a cheerleading team. Armstrong made the decision to create it and has been supporting the squad ever since. Through the years, the UMass Boston’s cheer program has grown to be more competitive.

“We didn’t have a competitive program; we more so just did game team cheerleading,” explained senior Sara Catana. “During COVID we were supposed to compete regionally, but that didn’t really work because the school shut back down. All of the sudden last year, we’re like, let’s actually go bigger than regional. Let’s go to Daytona.”

Sophomore Olivia Moos added, “last year, we didn’t really, like, know what to expect because it was our first year. Also, we didn’t do as many regional competitions and showcases.” To their surprise, the team placed fourth out of the 17 teams that participated in the event. “For our first year to get fourth, that was kind of crazy. We just made a name for ourselves as a team,” said Catana. This year the team is eager for the podium. “We are even hungrier this year, we are just ready to go down there and kill it,” Catana added.

The range of experience in the tumbling mat ranges from two to twelve years. In fact, for most of them cheer has been a constant thread throughout their lives.

Some athletes did recreational cheerleading for their high school, supporting school teams. Others began around the age of ten or middle school as a part of club cheer teams and performed at all-star cheer competitions. “All-star cheer is competitive performance cheer; it’s not cheering for a sports team or anything,” Moos explained.

However, college cheerleading is on a different level. The types of skills vary, and the difficulty of those skills are higher. One of the skills showcased is a basket toss, where three to four cheerleaders stand at the base and push another cheerleader, called the flier, who uses their impulse to jump above them. When they fall, the people in the base await the drop to support the flier. Teams can increase the basket toss skill by adding more complex skills, such as leg pikes or flips in the air.

For instance, backflip basket tosses are a skill that involves so much risk it is illegal for high school cheer teams and All-star teams under level seven (2).

The UMass Boston cheer team represented the Beacons at a national level; however, the team is not officially a part of Athletics, and their coaches remain unpaid volunteers. The sport of cheerleading involves risk and discipline, and with the Beacons making nationals, they have the opportunity to gain recognition.

Olivia Moos is a computer engineering major and shared that UMass Boston is a special place where she can pursue both of her passions, cheer, and engineering. “I designed and made keychains for the cheer team,” she said, gifting her teammates and linking the two passions.

Moos’ sweet gesture is not uncommon in the team, they are strongly unified. Moos added, “We’re a very, very close-knit team. It makes the teamwork aspect so much easier because we are all friends on the team and we’re all driven. […] We can work together to put out the best of our abilities forward.”

The team has since returned home from Daytona national title-holders. The UMass Boston Competitive Cheer Team placed second out 12 colleges in the Intermediate Division III All Girl category, with a final score of 93.7685.

(1)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhXRx_lva18

(2)   https://www.usacheer.org/aiovg_videos/basket-toss-back-flip

About the Contributor
Valentina Valderrama Perez, Features Writer