New captains cheer on tryouts

Two new captains, Liz Sever, ’17, and Sami Lait, ’18, were elected by a majority of the 18 members on the cheer teamone a cheer veteran, the other beginning in college. The new captains hosted tryouts in the Wise Center on April 14, 2016.

“I only started cheerleading my first semester, freshman year,” Sever said.

Lait has been a cheerleader her entire life and knew that wherever she decided to go to college that she wanted to continue cheering.

“When I got here and met the rest of the team, I knew it was a perfect fit,” Lait said.

Megan Gooding, ’16, and EricaRae Garcia, ’16, are happy to pass down their roles of captain to Sever and Lait, Gooding said.

“I think it’s going to be a solid transition, and the new captains are ready to take over to have a great upcoming season,” Gooding said.

The Allegheny College cheerleading club is currently experiencing a high turnover rate of coaches. At this point, a new coach has been determined. Former coach, Carrie Pongratz, 31, will be returning to coach the Gators.  

The cheerleading club supports the football and basketball teams and performs during halftime. The group practices in the evenings in the Wise Center every week on Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9 p.m., which includes a competition-sized mat for safe stunting and tumbling. Experience is not necessary to join the team, but commitment is required for success.        

The cheerleading club is overseen by the athletic department. It receives funding from Allegheny Student Government for a coach, who helps with routines and performances. The team has been working to become an official sport, but have been limited by monetary issues.

The purpose of cheering at games is to show enthusiasm and spirit in every performance while supporting the athletes, to help them come out with a win. They work to get people excited about the games and other events on campus.

They try to get everyone involved with cheering on the Gators and have a great time doing it, Lait said.

“I think that our squad takes a lot of slack because we are Division III and a club team, but these girls go out every week, sometimes in awful weather, to support their school and their classmates. They hardly get enough credit for that. I think that says a lot about the girls and it’s a big reason I have so much respect for them,” Sever said.

Each individual brings something completely unique to the program, Sever said.

There are people who have never cheered before, and some have years of experience. Many seniors are graduating who have put their heart and soul into the program, Sever said.

“College cheerleading taught me how to become a leader and work with people who have varied backgrounds and skills. I learned how to combine everyone’s talents to help make a uniform team and performance. I’ll take those lessons with me later in life,” Gooding said.

Sever and Lait, were excited for tryouts, the week of April 11. There was an open gym Thursday, April 7, in which new women, including incoming freshmen showed up.

On April 12, they taught the material and Thursday, April 14, the women officially held try outs. Incoming freshmen are able to submit a try-out video by May 3. Everyone is expected to do a cheer, chant, six to eight counts of a dance, some jumps, tumbling and all positions of stunting.

Stunts are designed to build performances displaying a person’s skill or dexterity. Teams consist of a back spot and two bases, which lift the flyer. Stunts range from basic two-legged stunts, to one-legged extended stunts and high flying basket tosses.

A basket toss is a stunt performed in cheerleading using three or more bases to toss a flyer into the air. Some basket tosses are more complicated than others. For example, star stunt, has a flyer, Taylor Looney, ’19, in the middle position that is connected to two people on the sides. She kicks up her leg, rotates it over her body and spins down into her stunt group.

Judges from off-campus will be coming to the college to judge the tryouts. About 20 people are expected to try out in person, which would take approximately an hour. The roster of the entire team including freshmen will be posted by May 4.

Sever and Lait, look forward to transforming the cheer program in the upcoming year. 
“We want to start this year like a cheer camp before classes start and planning themes for games, so the students can really get into it. We’re hoping to make the games more fun for everyone by interacting with the crowd as much as possible,” Lait said.