With a subpar performance history in this particular event, the SF State cheer team was appreciative to just attend the United Spirit Association Collegiate Nationals competition in Anaheim, Calif. this year. But they surprised even themselves when they landed second place.
“This team is the definition of the quote ‘Started from the bottom, now we’re here’,” said team member Dominick Gorum. “Our school can use this win to build more school spirit for next year and years to come.”
After finishing last out of 11 teams during last year’s competition, Stacy Huynh, president and cheer captain of the squad and third-year returning team member, was skeptical of the progression of the team but was pleasantly surprised after they scored the second place title.
“All of us worked hard and we literally shed blood, sweat and tears every practice, but it got us where we wanted,” said Huynh. “We made history.”
After more than a decade of not being able to participate at Nationals, the team was able to make the trip for the second straight year.
The competition started off a little shaky as a pyramid came down and a stunt fall happened on day one. But the strong parts of their performance were enough to land them in third place heading into the final day.
“The parts that fell on Sunday were picked up on Monday,” said head coach Zachary Cohen. “Putting both days together, we hit every part of the routine.”
In preparation for Nationals the team committed upwards of 20 hours each week in addition to practices and performances, preparation that began in November.
“We started working on the basics of pyramids and stunt sequences that we thought we could nail by the time we got back from winter break,” said team member and publicity manager, Tori Cruz. “We started choreographing the actual routine two weeks before the spring semester started.”
Up until the competition, their days were completely devoted to cheer and team bonding. Once the team was back on campus for the spring semester, daily practice was mandatory with a break during most weekends.
The addition of Michael Gulick as a new coach this season also helped the team improve their technique in order to advance their overall performance in time for Nationals.
“(Michael) brought more collegiate experience to the coaching staff,” said Cohen. “We have upped the difficulty of our stunts, pyramids and baskets and have improved our tumbling across the board as well.”
The cheer team’s most effective tactic in preparing for Nationals was simply performing. The team did three local showcases in the Bay Area prior to Nationals that served as practice as well as providing a little publicity. Performing for the public gave the team the needed experience of being in front of an unknown crowd, preparing them for any pressures on stage in Anaheim.
“No one else on this team has seen how much we’ve grown (more than) me,” said Huynh. “We are coming back even stronger for years to come. Next stop, first place.”