By Hilary Hagerman
After a shaky start to the season, Ryerson cheered its way to victory at this year’s Cheer Alliance Ontario Championships.
The cheerleading team placed first in their division at the competition held on March 7 in Mississauga.
“We had a really good performance as a whole,” said coach Christina Basan.
“They’re really proud of themselves, and I’m really proud of them.”
The win comes on the heels of a fourth place finish at the Cheer Alliance University and Open National Competition in February.
Basan, who headed the creation of the team in 2004, said the squad accomplished a lot of their goals this season.
She was proud they hit new stunts, perfected old stunts and performed tighter routines overall.
In previous seasons, the squad garnered a top three finish from 2004 to 2007 at the Ontario regional competitions. And last year they came fourth at the Cheer Alliance National Championships.
But this year, the win came as a total surprise to some of the cheerleaders.
“I didn’t think we were going to win,” said Marlee Kostiner, a first-time cheerleader and second-year journalism student.
“We weren’t even thinking about winning. We just wanted to do well for ourselves.”
Their victory at provincials is especially impressive for such a young squad. Seventy five per cent of the team is made up of rookie members.
“The team started in September as a new team,” said Merissa Robertson, a second-year interior design student in her second year of cheerleading at Ryerson.
Even if the team was new to the university scene, Elissa Uhlmann, a second-year biology student, said the first place finish helped set the tone for future competitions.
“Provincials is the best we’ve ever done. Even in the few practices we’ve had since, the morale has completely changed,” she said.
“It seems like the team knows that results like that are attainable, so the drive and intensity has been completely booseted.”
“We had a lot of training, learning, and teaching.”
The team had only two returning flyers – cheerleaders who are thrown in the air – which also made the team start the year a little slow.
“Training a new flyer from scratch is usually a little more difficult,” said Basan.
“Getting those guys up to par was probably our biggest challenge.”
And attendance problems at practice caused a major setback because of the sport’s dependence on team work.
“If people are missing we can’t put up or practice our stunts,” said Anna Seto, a second-year biology student.
“It was unfair for the people who do show up and cannot practise because of a missing team member. That’s a huge reason why we weren’t as prepared as we could have been.”
But despite the team’s ability to overcome these difficulties and cheer to victory at the provincials, some of the squad still worry that they don’t have a serious reputation at the university.
“Most Ryerson students seem to see us a bit of a joke,” said Uhlmann. “They only see us at a few games a year, and they don’t realize that we’re primarily competition cheerleaders, not game cheerleaders.”
And since cheerleading is still considered a club and not a varsity sport at Ryerson, the team is unable to receive necessary funding to compete.
“The lack of funding really prevents us from having good facilities. We pretty much have just the mats, and they’re not even the best mats,” said Kostiner. “It makes it harder for us to improve.”
“We’re pretty much on our own right now until we’re recognized as a team.”
The cheerleading team will practice until the end of the month, and then break until summer training, held in July and August.
And from there, they plan to continue to improve their skills and increase their difficulty level.
“We’re all pretty excited for next year,” said Basan.