A little spirit of their own

James Evans

Name the Villanova team that has made it to the nationals the last eight years in a row and will be going for its ninth consecutive bid this year. Men’s basketball? Sorry, we didn’t get Jason Fraser and company until this year. Women’s basketball? Almost, but Katie Davis and Trish Juhline have only been around for four years each. Football? Not quite. Brett Gordon has only been on campus for five years.

Try the cheerleading team. For the last nine years, the team has put out a finished product the University can be proud of and admire.

The team’s head coach, Phil O’Neil ’96, was part of the team during his tenure here. “I am so proud of this team,” O’Neil said. “I couldn’t be more happy with this team’s effort, determination, and positive attitude.” O’Neil took over as head coach this year, after Allyn Roache decided to retire. Roache led the team to prominence during the last six years and remains involved with Villanova’s program.

Most people who look at cheerleading and say that it isn’t a sport would be right, technically speaking. Cheerleading is defined as an athletic activity; however, one only has to look at one of the most hectic days a cheerleader has to understand that they have just as hard a day as most sports teams.

“My day begins at 8 [a.m.] when I go to lift,” senior captain Kelly Guisewhite said. “I finish lifting at 9 [a.m.] and then have a regular day of classes and meals. Then it’s off to practice two hours before the game and then the game and finally returning home at 10 [p.m.]”

“We usually practice three to four days a week for about two and half hours just on the stunts that we will be performing,” senior capatain Adam McLaughlin added.

“Then it’s another half an hour of conditioning so we’re in excellent shape when we hit the mat.”

The team is also very noticeable on campus, as they attend most athletic events. The team cheers regularly at football games and both men’s and women’s basketball games. “We always cheer at home games and usually make it to three or four away football games,” O’Neil said. “We would go to away games with the basketball team, but the Big East has a rule that a visiting team cannot bring its cheerleaders with them.”

With all this time devoted to practice, games and traveling with teams, people would immediately assume that the grades of the team would suffer, but this is not the case. The team’s GPA is an outstanding 3.32, while three members have a perfect 4.0.

The team will be competing this year at the National Cheerleader’s Association Chik-Fil-A Collegiate Cheer Championships in early April. Over winter break, the ’Cats came back to campus early and began working on a video to enter into the event. The rules for the competition are that each team has to perform a two minute, 15 second routine set entirely to music. During the routine, teams had to demonstrate its best pyramids, stunt sequences and tumbling passes. The team’s crowd involvement participation skill is judged prior to its routine in a 45-second crowd involvement section.

Usually, the team competes according to the division in which its football team competes. However, teams that have less that five male members can compete in the small coed division only. The ’Cats have five male members, but because they are a young team, O’Neil decided to have ’Nova compete in the small coed division. The team does not seem to mind, though, as spirits are high.

“Are we capable of winning the nationals?” Guisewhite asked. “Yes. Are we going to win? Not necessarily. We hope to perform our routine the best we can. That is our goal, if we win first place then that is an accomplish in addition to the pride we will already feel.”

Though the scores sometimes affect the way coaches or players perform, you can count on one thing: no matter what the score, the cheerleaders will be right there applauding their team on.