Spirit squads prepare for nationals

Sam Houston State University’s cheer squads have recently switched to outdoor practices to prepare them for this year’s national competition.

Senior mass communication major Kristy Kendall said the all-girl and co-ed teams are working to pull off a winning routine this year.

“We compete in Daytona the second week of April,” Kendall said. “We go to nationals every year and there [are] two teams, there’s co-ed team and an all-girls team. The co-ed team had won two years in a row and we lost last year so we have to redeem ourselves. The all-girls won their first recent national championship last year.”

The teams are taking advantage in the recent sunny conditions in order to acclimate to the hot conditions expected at nationals.

“We came outside to practice because during spring break we do two-a-days and we usually do it outside so we can get used to the sun cause we compete in Daytona Beach Florida,” Kendall said. “It wasn’t sunny last week so that’s why we came outside today to get used to the sun.”

Senior mass communication major and an all-girl squad captain Courtney Rab said the squads capitalize on every opportunity to perfect their performances.

“We’re taking advantage of every hour of practice time that we can and just really counting on each other to push it as hard as they can and give it all they can,” Rab said. “We’re shooting for a repeat, because all-girl squad won last year, so we’re trying to keep that title, and co-ed is also fighting just as hard to regain their title that they had two years ago.”

Blinn College joined SHSU Cheer at their recent practices. Rab said the presence of another squad helps motivate the teams.

“Blinn Junior College is out here practicing with us, they’re going to the same NCAA college cheerleading nationals that we are, just in a different division,” Rab said. “We all practice together and it helps push each squad to have another squad here with us.”

Assistant director for student services Brian McColpin oversees SHSU’s spirit programs and said these practices differ from those during the year.

“During the school year we mainly focus only on game days getting ready to cheer the teams on,” McColpin said. “It’s a big difference between basketball and football cheerleading. These during spring break and outside are more focused on nationals. We take everything we’ve learned throughout the year and focus it toward nationals.”

McColpin said he hopes the squads will come out on top of the competition this year.

Curriculum and instruction masters student Keith Jennings said his job as a mascot is to add pizazz and pep to the routines.

“I’m the Sammy for all-girl … [I] give them a little energy for their nationals routine and just provide a little extra funk for them,” Jennings said.

With nationals in close sight, Jennings said the squads have to remain mentally focused in addition to being physically prepared.

“We have a little bit less than a month left to go [until] Daytona,” Jennings said. “[All-girls are] national’s reigning champions so we’re about to get another one. It’s all in their heads. They do what they got to do one thing at a time. They’re going to be great. They’re going to do fine.”

SHSU’s all-girl and co-ed squads will compete in the NCA and NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida on April 8-12. The competitions will air on CBS Sports Network.

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