Cheerleading and Dance Teams Compete in National Competition

The following story, written by student Kristin Geyer, originally appeared in the April 21 issue of Le Provocateur, Assumption College's student newspaper

Two minutes and fifteen seconds. A year of practice, months of training, days of grueling work—it all comes down to two minutes and fifteen seconds. That’s how long the Assumption College Cheerleading and Dance teams had to prove themselves at the 30th annual National Cheerleaders Association (NCA)/ National Dance Alliance (NDA) Collegiate Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida, April 7 through April 11.

According to, “Almost 5,000 student athletes and 15,000 supporters and spectators convene each year for this spectacular competition of technical skills, choreography, synchronization, showmanship and outstanding teamwork.”
The NCA/NDA College Nationals spanned two days with preliminaries starting at 8 a.m. on April 7, followed by finals on April 8. The following days held the Stunt Competitions ranging from partner and group stunting to mascots. Day one is held at the Volusia County Ocean Center for cheer teams, while dancers perform at the Peabody Auditorium. Traditionally, finals are held across the street from the original venue seaside at the Daytona Beach Bandshell. This year, however, finals were forced inside due to morning thunderstorms.

Judges rank each team based upon its safety, innovation and difficulty of its routines. “We knew that every team was going to out tumble us—we were prepared for that, but we knew that we could stunt, jump, and dance just as well as the best teams and we were relying on scoring well in those areas,” said Cheer coach Matt Holdridge.

What the judges didn’t see was the perseverance it took from both teams to simply get to Nationals. “As a [cheer] team we overcame several obstacles, at times I didn’t think we would ever compete,” said Holdridge. “Between first and second semester we lost four girls right before returning from Christmas break, so literally everything that we had done first semester needed to be redone.” Lack of commitment plagued the team in the beginning of the year, but ultimately 14 girls stuck together formed an unbreakable squad. “The 14 girls who were on the mat [in Daytona] were committed to each other from day one,” said senior co-captain Erika Geyer.

Junior cheerleader Kylie LaPlante credits the leadership’s faith in the team as a driving force. “With three injuries the week before nationals, I honestly was unsure of how we would continue and be able to perform in Daytona, but our captains and coach pushed us,” she said.

The Dance Team faced a deficiency of experienced performers. With only five seniors and no juniors, the majority of the team had never competed on a national level. “Having four freshmen that have never been to nationals, the girls now know what is in store to make it to that finals stage and what we really need to focus on,” said Steven Visneau, dance coach. “We really pulled through by depending on each other,” said senior dance co-captain Marie Torto.

Preliminaries presented heartbreak for both teams. With the cheerleaders’ injuries throughout the season, lack of competition experience resulted in first day jitters. “After our shaky prelim performance I was very aggravated. We made a lot of stupid little mistakes. I thought ‘this is nationals and we look like a Pop Warner team,’” confessed senior cheer co-captain Emily D’Errico. Holdridge echoed D’Errico’s sentiment, “I was frustrated because they were silly mistakes that I had never seen before, and of all times for them to happen it was in Daytona.”

Geyer added that overall, “We knew that because it was the first time we were competing as a team it might not be perfect, but we practiced hard after prelims and were proud to have a second chance.” That second chance came in the form of the Challenge Cup, where the teams who didn’t make finals have to opportunity to compete for the coveted last spot.

Competing against teams with far more girls and less injuries, Holdridge knew there was a slim chance of moving on to the Finals. “I wanted the girls to end on a good note. I wanted them to be happy and feel proud of their last performance,” he said. “Considering the circumstances, I am extremely proud of the team. We were standing against girls that are considered sports players in their colleges who receive full scholarships for their performances,” D’Errico said. AC Cheer held their own against those teams, finishing seventh in the nation in All-Girl Cheer Division II.

The dancers also found themselves in the Challenge Cup. With feedback from the judges, the team faced reworking parts of its program that were criticized on the scoreboard. “I was nervous about the changes just because they were so used to performing it a certain way, you don’t want to change it and have them do the old way and not the new,” explained Visneau. They improved .46 to stack an impressive 8.614 in the Challenge Cup competition.

Their improvement proved futile though, as they missed finals by .008 to the University of Minnesota Mankato. “We were obviously disappointed, but after looking back at our performances and knowing that we truly danced our best, we were genuinely okay with it,” said Torto. “We went into Challenge Cup in second place behind a team that finished third in Finals the year before,” Visneau added.

The Dance Team currently ranks ninth in the nation for Dance Division II girls, an all-time best for Assumption’s Dance Program. They’re already looking forward to what next year brings. “We have the team, dedication and drive to get us to whatever place we have our minds set to,” Visneau said.

Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Intramurals and Sports Clubs, Patrick Guerette oversees both teams. To describe them both, Guerette said, “In one word, I would say dedicated.” He continued, “Both teams are very dedicated to their sport and they’re very passionate about it.” Guerette explained that the majority of varsity programs have devoted athletes, but with much more funding they’re missing out on skills that club sport teams must acquire to achieve success. From managing budgets to fundraising and recruitment, the Dancers and Cheerleaders rely on the teams, not programs. “There’s a lot more as far as developing the student so that they can get some life skills out of working with the clubs,” said Guerette.

As the cheerleaders waited for their results on April 7, two young girls shyly approached the team clad in cobalt and asked for their autographs. Offering momentary relief of the stress leading up to and during the competition, the girls remembered why they were in Daytona in the first place. “Sometimes you can lose perspective about the sport of cheerleading and how important it is to people,” said sophomore cheerleader Marissa Reis. “When those two little girls came up to us to ask for our autographs, it made me realize that I am not only cheering for myself. I am also cheering for all the girls out there that aspire to be a cheerleader some day.”

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews