The U of M cheerleading team sent 2010 out with a bang, earning the highest title the program has ever attained in the cheer routine division at the University and Open National Cheerleading Championships (UONCC), Dec. 3-4.
The UONCC, which were held in Brampton, Ontario, pull elite cheerleading athlete’s from across the country to compete in a wide variety of activities. Nearing its thirtieth consecutive year running, the UONCC is considered the pinnacle of team competition for university cheerleading throughout Canada.
Over the two-day span, the team competed in four separate divisions: partner stunt, group stunt, cheer routine and tumble competition. Of these four divisions, cheer routine is the main event, the focal point of the championships. This is where the full team roster performs a fast paced, two and a half minute routine twice, between two separate rounds.
In the first round of the cheer routine, the team is both ranked and critiqued by the judges. This initial round is critical for success, as each team must address their shortcomings and fix whatever lingering problems the judges comment on moving forward. Manitoba moved passed this first round with flying colours, earning a second place ranking ahead of Saskatchewan, Toronto and Carleton University.
In round two the Bisons pulled together, rectifying many mistakes from the previous round, holding securely to their second place spot — good enough to earn the cheerleading team the highest ranking finish in the program’s history. Previously, the highest ranking earned by a University of Manitoba team had been third overall.
In other events, Manitoba also secured a top three finish in male tumbling — a category in which the Bisons had never before entered a contestant. Bison athlete Kevin Geyson, who also captured a diving medal at the Commonwealth Games this past October, placed second overall, missing the all around title by only half a point.
Last year, Bison Alexandra Regier captured the national title in the female tumbling competition but was forced to sit out this year due to injury.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about UONCC is not only that it is one of the biggest events of the year, but for the Bison team it actually comes fairly close to the beginning of the season.
“A lot of the other teams in the province don’t really compete until March or April for their big competition,” said Bison cheerleading captain Giulia DeLeo, “but because from September to December we are working 12-15 hours a week some of us, just training so hard, nationals becomes a big motivator for us and if we succeed there we can already kick it up a notch and make what is already a pretty hard routine even better .”
In the eight seasons that the Bison cheerleading program has been running, DeLeo has been a member of both the inaugural team in 2003 and the record breaking second overall Canadian nationals team in 2010, a Bison cheerleading career spanning four years in total.
“There is no offseason in cheerleading, which is awesome. Our competitive season begins in September, nationals are in December, which is the first competition of the year for most teams and then there’s a series of events all over the world after that. We might travel to Mexico for an international competition where a lot of American teams come down, so that’ll probably be very awesome and very competitive for us.”
Although the team is celebrating their best nationals finish in program history, the achievement didn’t come without considerable hard work and physical sacrifice. This year the run up to nationals saw the U of M team face significant adversity in the form of injuries.
“Cheerleading, like any other sport, can be dangerous. We did have some last minute injuries and we had to switch people, pull people around, but we nailed it. I think every team kind of goes through that, especially towards nationals, just because you are training so hard, you’re run down. There are always minor injuries in the sport that you have to compensate for, but the caliber of athletes we have on the team this year is exceptional too and that really contributed to the success we had this year at nationals.”
Due to the fact that the cheerleading team is a non-funded program here at the U of M, Bison athletes rely heavily on fundraising contributions to support their basic team needs. In fact, the funds raised from last year’s annual stunt demonstration directly helped the cheerleading program obtain a section of used sprung floor that has been used to nearly complete the team’s full practice surface.
The University of Manitoba team will be hosting their annual cheerleading demonstration, Stunt Evolution V on Feb. 6, as well as the Bison Cheer Grand Championship on April 9. Those interested in learning more about the Bison cheerleading program can visit www.bisonscheer.com for more details.