2014 is the first year Ohio Wesleyan University has had a competition cheerleading squad, and the group has won first place for routines in three national competitions.
“They are fierce, fit, and fabulous,” Coach Emily Smith says of the squad, which decided to pursue competitive work this year.
“Although they are technically a club, they need to train like varsity athletes,” Smith says. “So, they asked me if I would prepare them to compete. It was an easy decision. They are chasing their dreams, and it’s been my honor to run alongside them.”
While the cheerleaders enjoy cheering at games, they are limited in what they can do at those venues because of safety concerns, Smith says. Football and basketball players often run out of bounds, potentially colliding with cheerleaders. Lengthy stunts also would distract the audience from the game.
“The cheerleaders don’t do their biggest skills at games,” Smith says. “Instead, their job at games is to play a supportive role to the athletes on the field.”
It’s in competition that they do their best work.
“If you put my cheerleaders on mats, they will blow you away with their ability to defy gravity,” Smith says. “They are fierce, fit, and fabulous.”
The team proved its Battling Bishop spirit with award-winning performances at the American National Cheer Power Competition in March in Columbus, the JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals in April in Pittsburgh, and the Eastern Bash in April in Myrtle Beach.
Achieving this success has not been easy, Smith says. The team hired a choreographer from TopGun AllStars in Florida – widely regarded as the best AllStar cheerleading program in the nation.
In their routines, the OWU cheerleaders build large pyramids for stunts, with 350 pounds on the bottom base group. They also perform basket tosses, where multiple cheerleaders throw a teammate up to 18 feet in the air.
This has required extensive training, both for safety and strength. The OWU cheerleaders train three days a week as a group and lift, swim, and do cardio several other times each week on their own.
“We train smart, and we have a detailed agenda for every single practice,” Smith says. “We record the number of times they do a skill and we track their progress.”
They also record each stunt the team does and review it in slow motion to make sure body shapes and landings are correct and safe.
“We master and then we progress,” Smith says. “We do not take short cuts.”
Learn more about the OWU Cheerleading Squad on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OWUCheerleading.