Cal Poly’s stunt team will head to Florida for the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) Collegiate Championships, the largest collegiate cheerleading competition in the nation, on April 10.
The team placed third, fourth and fifth in past competitions, according to stunt team coach Annette Laron-Pickett. Last year, they placed second in the United Spirit Association Nationals in Anaheim. Laron-Pickett said the goal this year is to keep up with the increasing trend and place first at the NCA.
“It’s a growing program and the talent keeps getting better and better,” Laron-Pickett said.
Environmental engineering sophomore and stunt team member Danielle Noce said the competition could expand Cal Poly’s program and bring more women to the program in the future.
“I’m nervous and anxious because this is the most important competition in collegiate cheerleading and could mean so much in getting Cal Poly’s name out there in the competitive collegiate cheerleading world,” Noce said.
Noce has been cheering for 10 years, two of those at Cal Poly. She said if the stunt team wins at the NCA, all four women vowed to get horseshoe tattoos to remember the experience.
The road to qualification for the competition began when the team went to camp for training. At the camp, they received a bronze bid to go to nationals. The team sent in a video bid, and out of 50 teams, Cal Poly placed seventh.
The program, however, does not receive scholarships. The women will put on a bake sale and send out letters to sponsors to help offset the cost of travel and lodging in Florida, Laron-Pickett said.
“We’re definitely trying to get the word out to fundraise to get (to Florida),” she said.
Although students might confuse the two, the cheer and the stunt teams are two separate programs. The Cal Poly cheer team consists of 20 women, while the stunt team consists of four of those women.
“We practice several extra days of the week as an individual stunt group,” said biomedical engineering senior Nicole Shaw. “In these practices, we do not focus whatsoever on typical ‘rah rah’ cheerleading.”
Shaw said the team of four will perform a 45-second routine with the most elite level stunts possible.
Shaw has been on both the cheer and stunt teams for three years. She started cheering in seventh grade and also spent 15 years competing in gymnastics.
Mathematics sophomore Michele Bayer said the championships are what her team has been working hard for.
“I will be nervous when I’m there, but now is all about preparing for it,” she said. “We are looking forward to this year’s competition season.”
Bayer has been cheering for six years, since she was a freshman in high school. This is her second year on the Cal Poly cheer team and first on the stunt team.
The cheer team holds tryouts every May, which Bayer said were very nerve-racking.
“You have a standing tumbling pass, a running tumbling pass, three jumps, then you show them the dance and cheer you just learned,” she said. “Very long days and very stressful, but you always have fun and meet a lot of new girls.”
According to Bayer, the cheer season begins before school starts and ends at the last competition. The team is in San Luis Obispo for two weeks at the beginning and end of summer. At the end of summer, the team goes to a camp to prepare for the upcoming season, she said.
Shaw said her favorite sport to cheer at is football.
“There’s something about the bright lights and the cool crisp nights and cheering for your team that is just indescribable,” she said.