By Adrianne Hutto, Production Editor
A new chapter is beginning for the Manhattan College Cheer team: they will compete in the NCA Cheer Nationals for the first time in MC history.
For this year’s competition, they will perform against teams from colleges and universities across the country in Daytona Beach, Florida this coming April. With pom-poms in hand, stunting their way to new levels, the team is preparing for an intense season of preparation for this exciting journey.
Marked by dedication, hard work and lots of amazing new and returning talent, the team is more ready than ever to prove themselves against the other teams. Stephanie Riggi, who is in her first year as head coach and a Manhattan College alum, explains that under past leadership the team’s focus had been mainly collegiate, and had only one coach for the entire team. Riggi explains that the team is now much more focused on engaging the crowd at games.
“Our focus has shifted a lot more on technique, a lot more on engaging focus,” Riggi said. “Then obviously with this upcoming year and with this brand new opportunity to be a competitive team, which was never an option for us under past coaches, it is more so.”
Riggi credits the team’s ability to attend Nationals for the first time largely due to the talent present on the team. After the shift to a new coach, the team really had to start from the ground up. “We were really able to have a clean slate and take the team as our own,” Riggi said. “So I think that plays a huge role in it.”
Senior communication major and back spot for the cheer team, Carter Silane, explains that it has always been a goal of the teams, for as long as she has been with them.
“You know no matter what place you are in, you kind of have to start somewhere,” Silane said. “Our goal was to start this year and really to reach that.”
Silane explained that the team will be putting in an extra level of work this semester to ensure they are ready for April.
“It’s a lot more work than just preparing to cheer at basketball games,” Silane said. “It’s adding more practices, and then over winter break, we’re going to have to come back a week early and have a boot camp. I think it’s gonna be a lot more time and commitment, but I think we’re all fit and ready to do that.”
Captain of the cheer team, Alexa Fox, explains that the primary hurdle the team is facing in preparing for competition is finances.
“Obviously everyone is experiencing some difficulties with budgets and obviously competing is an expensive thing to do,” Fox said. “A lot goes into it behind the scenes, not even skill-wise, but with money.”
Fox explained that after a lot of back and forth with coaches, shortly after they were told it would be possible for them to compete.
“It was surreal,” Fox said. “I read the text and it said we’re competing and it kind of shocked me but it felt so rewarding too, because I know that we’ve worked so hard up until this point, and to see it all paid off was explainable.”
In the past few weeks, the team acquired a new assistant coach who is bringing her expertise and knowledge of competing in national competitions to the players. Caroline Oliver explains that the environment and other competitors at Nationals can be very daunting for the team, two major hurdles she is helping to prepare the team for.
“It can be very overwhelming because you are at the same place walking next to girls that some of these girls have probably grown up idolizing,” Oliver said.
With Manhattan Madness less than a week away, the team is gearing up for a powerful performance.
“This would be our first performance as a team, which is always fun because we have girls that have never done it before and now they finally get to get out there and show everything that they’ve been doing,” Fox said. “I think that’s a great first step for us to have to just perform in front of a crowd and then move towards practicing new skills and more advanced skills.”
Manhattan Madness will take place Thursday, Oct. 26 at 9 p.m. in Draddy Gymnasium and will give students the opportunity to see firsthand all the hard work the cheer team has put in over the past year. To help raise money for Nationals the team will be having a ‘Boo Bag’ fundraiser, which will be available for purchase on Oct. 25 in Kelly Commons from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Stay tuned for updates on the cheer team’s journey to Nationals.