The basketball season has ended, but the blue mats are still being rolled out in Memorial Hall and for the Plattsburgh State cheer club, the real competition is just getting started.
First on their agenda is their inaugural showcase Thursday, a public event for the campus community to raise money for the club and exhibit their routine. The showcase will also feature performances by student groups: Jedi Dance Productions, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and Kickline.
Money raised during the event will help fund their competition Reach the Beach Ocean City, All-Star and College Nationals 2018. Their budget from the Student Association covers most competition expenses, including entry fees and lodging, but meals, tolls and part of the fuel cost are paid out of pocket. The intent of the fundraiser is to alleviate that burden, according to student-coach Megan Gardner.
The cheerleaders are seen most prominently on the sidelines of basketball games; however, their stunts extend beyond what spectators see beside the court.
“It is so much more than standing on the sidelines waving pom-poms,” Gardner said.
At a competition, the club has under three minutes to perform a full routine on a spring mat, opposed to a hardwood floor, which allows the club to perform additional stunts they otherwise couldn’t perform during basketball games.
The sport can be just as dangerous as any other, coach Gardner and flyer Imani Burroughs both said, especially as practice for nationals heats up.
“It’s just as dangerous as football, basketball or rugby. I don’t think a lot of people know that” Burroughs said, “As a flyer, I’m constantly being thrown in the air, and I have to trust in my bases to catch me. Sometimes freak things happen.”
Gardner, who cheered all four years of high school and into her sophomore year at PSUC, wasn’t completely serious when she first joined but quickly fell in love with the sport. She made the jump to coaching after sustaining a bad concussion. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found 66 percent of catastrophic sports injuries among young women were from cheerleading.
“I just couldn’t give it up,” Gardner said.
Burroughs, who began her cheer path in tenth grade, loves the variety in the sport.
“Not only do you dance, there’s also gymnastics, stunting, and lifting–it’s kind of like working out all the time,” she said.
“It’s a great bonding experience,” Burroughs added. “You’re with a whole bunch of people from different places, and you’re like a family.”
Being on the sidelines for most of the men’s basketball team’s impressive Sweet 16 finish in the NCAA Division III Tournament, the cheer club also wants a taste of that success – and a lot more of it.
“We expect to win,” Burroughs said about their own upcoming competition. “We’ve been working really hard, and hopefully in the future, we’ll have enough funding where we can worry about just practice rather than a whole bunch of funding.”
Gardner echoed that confidence.
“I think this is the most talented team we’ve had in the past four years, at least,” Gardner said, “and I’m really excited to see what they can do.”
Email Ken Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org