Spirit groups compete for highest honors, earn national titles
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 11:01
Each year the Universal Cheerleaders Association and Universal Dance Association join spirit groups from across the nation to compete for the highest honors with hopes in returning home as champions.
After a record-breaking football season, special appearances and many hours of rehearsals including practices during winter break, Southeastern’s cheerleaders, Lionettes and Roomie the Lion traveled to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. for the 2014 competition which took place Jan. 17-19. Both groups returned with national titles.
This year’s awards mark the third consecutive year the cheerleaders have earned national titles and the second year in which they have earned a bronze medal in finals, competing in the Small Coed Division I. Roomie also placed fifth in the Open Division competition for university mascots.
“Being a top contender at college nationals just still does not seem real to me,” said sophomore business administration major Laurel Williams. “My coach, Wayne New, always harps on us to keep our chins up as we walk around and to keep our eyes and our minds focused on our routine and on each other rather than starring in amazement at the big named schools such as Kentucky or Alabama.”
Showing consistency in the program over the past two years, the Lionettes placed third in the jazz dance competition again and dropped two placements finishing fourth in hip-hop this year.
“It was my first time ever competing,” said Denee Johnson. “I think for me, it being my first time on stage, nerves got to me the first time, and the second time I got all those nerves out. I was more comfortable dancing in front of all those people. It’s disappointing because we dropped two places from last year in hip-hop, but at the same time it’s good because when I got off that stage I felt like ‘We did that.’ I was happy.”
The cheerleaders have also returned with national titles for the past three, consecutive years.
“I believe that we have established Southeastern cheerleading in the top 3, as we have done so for three consecutive years,” said junior communications major Michael Vinsanau. “I think we will remain there for some time too. When it comes down to it, we have the best cheer portion in college cheerleading, which takes 45 seconds of our routine. It also holds 35 points in the score sheet and when we have that advantage, we start off with a solid spread and if we hit, then the other teams have to beat us.”
Squads from all over the country work hard year round and head to the competition to showcase their skills and compete against some of the nation’s best cheer and dance teams.
“I think after we did it once in semi-finals we had already gotten the nerves out, and we were just really ready to go out there and do what we’ve been practicing all these hours to do,” said Lionette’s Captain Valerie Ponseti. “As far as our placement it was just really close, and we went out there and did the best we’ve ever done, and we were happy with that. It was a really close game; everybody was good.”
The spirit groups are both led by Paige Lapeyrouse. Members of the team are thankful for her motivation in helping them to grow and succeed.
“I think that Paige has really done a fantastic job building it [the program] up during the past four years,” added Ponseti. “Each year we’ve gone down there more confident, more ready and more prepared, and the results are being shown every single year. We’re getting stronger; our name is getting out there, and I think that as a coach she’s just really doing a great job. We have great choreographers that help us with the routines. The past few years I’ve seen the team come together and get things done. We have a great work ethic and determination, and of course there’s Paige. She pushes us. She’s a hard coach, but she’s a good coach.”
Although many members of both squads will have another opportunity to take a shot at a national title, for some it was their last chance.
“It was a great feeling,” said Ponseti. “It’s been great every time that we’ve been called as a top five team in the country. I’m very proud of what we’ve done over the past four years. There’s also that little bit of disappointment that it was my last time going out there, but I know that they are going to continue to do great. I can’t really choose a routine, but my favorite part would definitely be finals in either routine knowing that it’s our last time to do this dance we just had to leave it all out on the floor and hope that everything hits, everything sticks and everything goes perfectly.”
The spirit groups will continue to maintain their skills during the off season while participating in athletic and promotional events and preparing for auditions for next year’s squad in May.
“I like to think that cheerleading doesn’t have an off-season,” added Williams. “We got home from Nationals Monday night and were back at practice 6 days later on Sunday night working on new skills for next year. It is so important that cheerleaders stay healthy, in shape, and injury free through the off season because we constantly have to stunt and tumble so that we keep up with the skills we already know so that at practice we can learn new, harder skills that will make us better for next year.”