The Cal Poly Cheer/STUNT team traveled to Orlando, Florida earlier this month and competed in the National Cheerleading Association Collegiate Championships at a new venue in Disney’s ESPN Zone. This was the first big event held at the complex designed specifically for cheer and dance.
According to senior captain Kate Panos, the Mustangs had some tough competition from an in-state rival.
“Our rivals Sacramento State, made a comeback in our division,” Panos said. “Knowing that all season, knowing we’re competing against them was super intense, always lots of emotions and excitement backstage.”
While talking to the other captain, senior Kristen Forster, Panos described the fun of the competition.
“Even with the teams in California it’s fun because we all have practiced together. We were practicing with San Diego State, Sacramento State, and Cal State San Marcos and it was fun because you get to see your friends and cheer on your friends,” Panos said.
The Mustangs were able to beat Sacramento State and the rest of the field on their way to winning the National Championship in the all-girl Gameday Division, a new division opened this year. According to Panos, the Gameday Division is judged more on a teams’ overall ability to pump up the crowd and not as much on a team’s choreography and dance routine.
“It really focuses on more of the traditional aspect of cheerleading,” Panos said. “So crowd leading and leading the crowd, getting the crowd pumped as opposed to the other division which we also competed in, which is more of the elite division where we get to more showcase skills and dance and, you know, stuff like that.”
The Mustangs finished ninth overall in the all-girl Division I competition.
The competition featured a number of universities from all over the country. The multitude of highly-competitive squads left some on the Mustangs’ stunt team
“Being at a school like Cal Poly and practicing next to some of the teams — like Alabama and Kentucky, these huge schools big football, big cheerleading — it’s just really surreal,” Panos said. “Standing there, warming up for your routine and you look over and the University of Alabama is right next to you, that was just really cool and really puts into perspective the scope of the competition, that it is truly national.”
Both Panos and Forster have been on the team for all four years of their college career. According to Panos and Forster, this year’s team has a great combination of veteran leadership and talented underclassmen.
“This team is super talented … really just strong in all aspects,” Forster said.
Though the team was focused on succeeding on the floor, they also made a concerted effort to always have fun while striving for greatness. According to Panos, having fun is key to the team’s success.
“We really have fun on this team when we’re on the floor performing, more so than other teams I think,” Panos said. “When we are just out there having fun and really just doing our thing, then it really shows in our performance and those are the performances that we look good in and that we win.”
For Forster, cheerleading at Cal Poly is more than just a competitive sport and having fun with friends. In her four years on the team, she cheered with her older sister for two years and her younger sister, who is on the team now for the last three.
“It’s exciting to be with a member of my family and do what I love with someone I love and then be able to see our skills grow over the years,” Forster said. “I was obviously in college before her and seeing her transition from a high school cheerleader to a college cheerleader is just super exciting to me.”
The team was honored this past Thursday at halftime of the Cal Poly men’s basketball game against Long Beach State with a ceremony at center court and a picture with Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong. Each member of the team wore the medals they received at the competition.