Flying to new heights

Sara Scanes

Kent State cheerleading team among top 10 in the nation

Cheerleaders perform a routine during practice Tuesday.

Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Cheerleading is not all pompoms and megaphones.

With 6 a.m. lifting and four-hour practices, cheerleading is serious business.

“One year, a girl postponed surgery to fix her broken nose until after nationals,” said Whitney Cleland, senior communication studies major and four-year member of the Kent State cheerleading team. “She didn’t complain or anything.”

That sort of dedication did not go unrewarded this year at the Universal Cheerleading Association’s national competition in Orlando, Fla., where the cheerleading team took ninth place.

The competition was held Jan. 17, and the team was in Orlando Jan. 16-18.

“It’s like our Super Bowl,” Cleland said.

The team competed in the Division I small coed competition. The small coed team consisted of four male and 12 female cheerleaders.

This was a new division for them, and Cleland said the competition was intense.

“The competition this year was insane,” she said. “It was one of the hardest years we’ve competed.”

Cleland said the team had been preparing for nationals since August. During Christmas break, they practiced every day.

“We don’t have Christmas break,” said Shelly Prest, senior human movement major and five-year member of the team. “We got two days before Christmas and two days after. That was it.”

George Karadimas, senior nutrition dietetics major and two-year member of the coed cheerleading team, said sometimes people underestimate the work cheerleaders put in.

“A lot of people don’t realize how serious we take it and how serious it is,” Karadimas said.

But all that practice paid off during competition.

During the preliminary round of competition, the team went up against 15 other teams. Out of the 10 teams that qualified for the final round of competition, they came in third.

In the final competition, the team took ninth place, putting them among the top 10 Division I teams in the country.

Coach Lenee Buchman said she was proud of her team.

“The cheerleaders work very hard,” Buchman said. “Our nationals is like the NCAA Tournament for (basketball) or the Super Bowl for football. I could not be prouder of my teams each year.”

Prest said winning was the “greatest feeling ever.”

“We were on cloud nine,” said Karadimas.

The team spent a day at the Disney parks, something that excited Hillary Smith, freshman speech pathology major and first-year member of the team, just as much as taking home a top 10 ranking.

“I met the Disney princesses,” Smith said, beaming. “I never got to do that when I was little, so I was pretty excited.”

Contact general assignment reporter Sara Scanes at [email protected].