The UMW cheerleading team stepped off the mat last spring at the 2022 Cheer & Dance Extreme Showcase in the Maryland Show Place Arena, proudly wearing the title of Grand Champions. Not only did the team come out on top of the Advanced Collegiate All-Girl Division, but they scored a program-best 280 points on their routine.
“We all knew we hit all our stunts,” said junior art history and historic preservation double major Gabby Alexander. “In the cheer world, hitting zero is often the most rewarding part of the entire experience. … The hard work really felt like it paid off in that moment.”
The showcase was open to any school that wished to participate and then teams were divided into separate divisions based on age and skill level.
Coming off of a big season and feeling the loss of many senior teammates, UMW Cheer welcomes alumna Sareena Barnes, who is stepping into the role of head coach this season. Barnes is determined to boost the girls to the next level, setting her sights on qualifying for one of the biggest national competitions: the NCA Daytona Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Barnes, a member of the team from 2018 to 2022, finished her final competition with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
“We did the extra work and conditioning and ultimately came out on top,” said Barnes. “The team’s win was a great stepping stone for the things we want to accomplish next.”
Barnes’ leadership and cheer experience, as well as her active role within the cheer community, landed her the role as coach.
“Not only does Sareena understand what it means to be a UMW cheerleader, she also knows what changes need to be made to make our team stronger,” said Alexander. “I am looking forward to being under her leadership this season.”
Senior business administration major and current team captain Annie Wadovick shared a moment from last season that highlighted the strength of the team’s bond.
“We went to our local All Star gym to practice before the showcase,” said Wadovick, “and I injured my hand during the trial.” With the competition fast approaching, Wadovick felt the full support of her team and was able to mentally and physically push through.
“It was like the best routine we had ever done,” she said.
The team has come a long way since its formation in 1988. The evolution of cheerleading has seen the UMW team grow beyond the sidelines, exhibiting ever-increasing feats of athletic ability. Currently a stunt-heavy team, up until 10 years ago the team did not stunt or tumble.
The team’s jumps, tumbling, stunts and pyramids are a few of the skills that landed UMW cheer first place at competitions like the 2017 Reach the Beach Nationals, where they competed against teams like James Madison University Club Cheer and Shepherd University Cheer.
When they’re not competing at their own events, the team cheers at both men’s and women’s home basketball games, as well as community events. They also train and practice year-round to compete locally and nationally.
While UMW cheer is technically considered a club at the moment, the team is hoping to be recognized as a hybrid-team in the near future. This means they will be considered a varsity sport by the school, which will include access to athletic facilities such as the weight room, athletic trainers, and gym spaces.
Additionally, the cheerleaders participate in fundraising events throughout the year to help fund the cost of travel, entry fees and hotel accommodations. They will be appearing at Clash of the Clubs on Oct. 20 and a golf tournament on Oct. 28 at Lee Hills Golf Course.
“This year’s schedule is jam-packed as we will be fundraising a lot and appearing a lot more in student activities,” said Barnes.
Following the conclusion of tryouts on Sept. 11, the team is practicing three times per week until April. Their first appearance this season is expected to be at the home basketball games in November.
Students interested in joining the team need no prior experience and should reach out to the team on their Instagram @umwcheer or to any of the members on the executive board.