SUNY New Paltz’s cheerleading team took home first place at the Reach The Beach National Cheer Championships in Ocean City, Maryland on April 2-3.
New Paltz Cheer competed in a group of four teams in the coed collegiate limited division, which requires that teams have four male cheerleaders or under, said head coach Kayla Paine from Hyde Park, New York.
According to Paine, New Paltz Cheer knew that they were competing in the tournament for the entire cheerleading season. During the fall and winter, the team cheered for men’s basketball. They spent the spring semester learning their routines and preparing for the competition.
The championship was a two-day tournament, so the team prepared two routines, Paine said. The routines involved nearly every element of cheerleading, including tumbling, basket tosses, transitional stunts, dance sequences, pyramids and cheers involving crowd interaction with signs and pom poms.
The win was well-deserved, Paine said, but the team’s victory came with a variety of unique challenges that forced the team to adapt their routines.
One minute into their first routine, one of the jumpers on the team injured herself. Though she continued to cheer for the remaining minute and 30 seconds of the routine, the injured athlete wasn’t able to participate in the next day’s routine, Paine said. They later found out that the cheerleader had actually torn her ACL, which made her heartiness and dedication all the more impressive to the team.
Despite the tough situation, the athletes of New Paltz Cheer pulled through with a strong performance on Sunday. Their win involved some quick thinking on Paine’s part: shortly after their first routine on Saturday, Paine learned that the team was ranked in first place by .1 points. Paine decided not to reveal their lead to the cheerleaders, knowing very well that the team had a big challenge ahead of them with an injured teammate.
Weather conditions and space limitations at the tournament forced New Paltz Cheer to practice their revised routines for hours in a parking garage. Paine said she was proud of her cheerleaders’ grittiness when the competition came down to the wire.
“That’s such a big part of being an athlete,” she said. “You have to be ready for anything. You have to be ready to change on the fly and to just bounce back.”
The sport is truly a team effort, Paine said, and New Paltz Cheer demonstrated incredible teamwork and resilience.
“You can have a star basketball player who can carry the team and get them where they need to be, but cheerleading is not like that,” she said. “Cheerleading takes every individual; they have to work toward a common goal together. You can have one amazing tumbler or amazing flier, but if she doesn’t have great bases to get her up in the air, it doesn’t really work.”
New Paltz Cheer’s plans for next year? According to Paine, their main objective is to rebuild their ranks. The team will lose many of its experienced cheerleaders, who are graduating this spring. Paine is interested and excited to see the team transition from one group of student leaders to the next.
“It’ll be a lot of hard work for the new cheerleaders to fill the shoes of the seniors,” Paine said with a smile.