Late game comebacks, fourth quarter runaways, baseline to baseline jams, crushing three pointers all have one thing in common: they need a spark plug to be executed properly. The Bobcat’s spark plug comes in the form of the Quinnipiac Cheerleaders.
This year’s squad of twenty women is headed by Senior Captain Kara Brawn and Junior Captains Nora Sullivan and Denise Wilbert. To most students, cheerleading looks like a simple sport that consists of little flips, smiles, and cartwheels. According to the three captains, this assumption couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Nora Sullivan, a Diagnostic Imaging major from Waterford, Conn., stresses that the cheerleader’s season is quite different from other sports. “We begin the first week of September and do not finish until the middle of April. We have cheerleading obligations every day of the week, whether it being practice, workouts or gymnastics,” Sullivan said.
Cheerleading is much different than other team sports. For example, if Coach DeSantis feels Rob Monroe needs some time practicing free throws, he can have Rob go off and practice by himself. Successful cheerleading, according to Sullivan, relies on the team’s ability to work together at every stage in their performance. Unlike basketball, an individual can not go off and practice a routine without the rest of the group. “We train, we sweat, we get injured; we must not simply get the tricks individually, but must get them as a team and synchronize it to the exact second. We do not have three months of games to prove our skills; we have two minutes and fifteen seconds to give it all we got. One step off the mat, one missed motion, or one little bobble in a stunt can ruin our chance for a win we spent months on to gain.” The team’s motto “Don’t Let the Skirt Fool You” drives home the idea that cheerleaders are to be looked at as athletes. This writer couldn’t agree more. Stunts and tosses have become increasingly difficult in execution over the past four years. Sullivan stated “I just wish people would stop with all the stereotyping and take a second to see what cheerleading has become. “Don’t Let the Skirt Fool You,” cheerleaders are athletes! Cheerleading has grown immensely over the past several years, and has become more visible even here on campus. Our tosses are higher, stunts more difficult, and advanced gymnastics a pure requirement even to tryout for the team.” Wilbert echoed Sullivan in stating that the motto represents their athleticism, “We work hard and hope that the Quinnipiac community recognizes our dedication.”
The women’s squad has a rigorous training schedule, which was devised by the captains to keep the team in shape. Denise Wilbert, Nesconset, N.Y., explained that “We have instituted a workout schedule, along with four practices a week, which includes gymnastics. Our season really picks up once basketball starts with at least one game a week and competitions on the weekends.”
Besides attending all of the men and women’s home games, the cheerleaders have traveled to UCONN and Madison Square Garden. According to Wilbert the team plans to attend “numerous competitions this year including the New England Championship, College Nationals in Daytona and we are hosting our own competition here at Quinnipiac. Our competition will take place the last weekend in February.”
Sullivan describes the team’s role as “an attempt to give them (the basketball teams) more encouragement, support, and pride for the school they play for. We cheer for the crowd to promote spirit and entertainment. The basketball players train hard and are very talented athletes, we only hope that we can offer them that extra encouragement during those stressful moments, and want them to see that we stand behind them through all the wins, as well as the losses.”
Like the rest of the athletes on campus, the cheerleaders are faced with the daunting task of time management. Sullivan’s says her Mondays consist of “getting up at 6 a.m. to drive and attend clinical till 4:30 p.m., followed by class for three hours, then straight to practice for another three hours, then to the library. Sleep and free time are definitely my biggest sacrifices.”
Nora Sullivan, in her closing remarks, showed what it means to be a leader when she stated, “Being a captain of this team is an honor. Yet cheerleading isn’t about individual glory; we are not 20 individuals, we are one team. We rely, support, and trust each other on and off the mat. My job as captain is to inspire and motivate the rest of the team, but in actuality, it is them who inspire me.”
This year’s cheerleading team represents the outcome of mixing hard work, dedication, athleticism and loyalty to a team and its members. Combined with the support of the Quinnipiac Athletic Department and their coaches Maryann Powers and Marie Kashuba, this year’s team looks as confident and focused as they’ve ever been.