Cheer Team Seeks to Defend Title at NCA Collegiate Championship

April 8, 2014

THIS WEEK (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Thursday, April 10 -- at NCA College Nationals (preliminaries)
Friday, April 11 -- at NCA College Nationals (finals)

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The University of Michigan cheer team will compete alongside dozens of teams representing more than 35 states on Thursday and Friday (April 10-11) at the 2014 National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate Cheer Championship held at three venues in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Michigan will perform in the Coed Intermediate I division against 15 other institutions. The Wolverines will open the competition on Thursday (April 10) in the Band Shell at 2:49 p.m. Finals will be held the following day (April 11) in the Ocean Center beginning at 8:45 a.m.

The Maize and Blue took home the 2013 national championship, the first in the program history. Fourteen members from that national championship squad will be competing this season along with 10 newcomers.


Thursday Schedule
1:15 p.m. -- Coed Intermediate I division preliminaries begin
2:49 p.m. -- Michigan performance
3:45 p.m. -- Finalists announced
3:55 p.m. -- Challenge Cup round begins

• Twenty-two members of the cheer team will perform the 2 minute, 15 second routine. The squad includes seniors Lindsay Allen, Emily Caoagas, Chris Fraga, Adam Karpinski, A.J. Rodriguez and Kesley Vander Wiere; juniors Ira Brandon, Mimi Conley, Annie Driesbach, Cassandra Gelov and Carly Pinkerton; sophomores Evan Hampton, Tori Martinsen, Pat McCloskey, Nicholas Millado, Kevin Waterman and Trevor Zajac; and freshmen Kaitlin Hamacher, Kristin Johnson, Nicole Latham, Alex Snow and Carley Wayne.

• Friday's finals from the Band Shell will be live streamed on for a cost of $19.99. Video of all performances will be available for free on following the team performances. Highlight videos will be up a few hours after the performances. The finals will also air on CBS Sports Network on a date to be announced.

• The NCA Collegiate Cheer Championship features the Challenge Cup which ensures each team will perform its routine twice. The Challenge Cup will take place following preliminaries on Thursday, and some teams will advance to Friday's finals as result of their performance in the bonus round.

• The Wolverines have finished in the top two in the past two seasons. In 2012, U-M placed as the runner-up behind James Madison University. In 2013, Michigan won its first national title.

Five Questions with Michigan Head Coach Pam St. John

What makes Nationals so significant for your team and your program? "What Nationals does for our program, is it gives the student-athletes in the cheer program an opportunity to compete for Michigan. Everything else that we do -- and that's about 98 percent of what we do -- is in support of other athletic teams, serving as ambassadors of the University, helping out with special events. A lot of times, cheerleaders are the closest our fans get to student-athletes, so they really are the face of athletics to many people. Within the cheer program, Nationals is the only time they get to compete as a Michigan athlete so it is very important to them.

"What you see at games is usually very little of what the cheerleaders can do athletically. For safety reasons, we don't do a lot of elite skills at games because there is always a chance of a player coming off the court into what you're doing, or a receiver crashing through your sidelines, so we restrict what we do at games based on that and on the surface that we're performing on."

Where does the Nationals routine come from? "We actually begin our Nationals process in August. We evaluate the athletes throughout the month of August, and then in late August to early September we begin putting together a routine. We do have a choreographer that helps us develop it, but some of it comes from the athletes, the coaches tweak it a lot. What you sometimes think you can do, you can't always do. So you might have some great element in your mind, but it's not possible. The other thing that is really important is that you go over those eight months of preparation, what you do is you see your team develop your strengths. You want to put a routine out there that emphasizes your strengths and does not show your weaknesses. It's a collaborative effort."

What do you like about this group going to Nationals? "They are a unique group of kids, and every year is different. I really love this team because they are very close, they like each other. As with any athletic team, they get stressed out with certain things, but they are very supportive of one another. When we come up against challenges, like an injury, that affects everybody, the work cooperatively and collaboratively. They are fun to be around -- but all cheerleaders are (laughs). But that is what I like about them. Athletically they are very talented, probably the most talented across the board of any team we've taken to Nationals. The thing that will get them over the hump is their camaraderie."

What is the competition like? "In some senses, the cheerleading competition is most like gymnastics. You compete against a rubric, so you know which skills you have to have to score well in each category. The competition comes against your routine, not the other teams. You develop a routine based on the rubric that you think your team will score well with. If you score well, you win. But there is some subjectivity to it.

"As far as who we will see there, cheerleading is a very different world. Each sport has schools that specialize in them. Cheer is very strong in southern schools and the Southwest. So we'll see a lot of teams from Florida, Texas, Virginia -- and many times it is the smaller schools that are very, very good."

What has changed for your team since winning the national championship in 2013? "Not much. Every year I make a poster that says what I'm going to stay focused on. This year, part of it says 'I don't let anyone out-prepare me.' I try to prepare my athletes as thoroughly as I can, both physically and mentally. When you only get one shot to be perfect, it's hard to prepare for that. It's not like we have first quarter then second quarter -- or we can make a comeback in the second half. We have two minutes and 15 seconds to try and be perfect."

Contact: Michael Kasiborski