Guelph’s win at cheerleading nationals is a first
By Ned Bekavac
Three seasons ago, University of Guelph Gryphons cheerleaders finished in third place at nationals.
Two ago, they were second.
This year – ch-ching! – they’re first.
Now that’s what you call a steady, consistent climb.
“It’s fantastic,” says coach Cari-Ann Young.
The school’s cheerleading club recently struck gold in the university all-girls division at the Power Cheerleading Athletics 2012 University and Open National Cheerleading Championships in Brampton.
The event has been around for 28 years, says Young, and Guelph has never won the national title before.
The victory is especially impressive when you consider that a few years ago the university didn’t even have a cheerleading group. Today, the club, which was on the shelf for about five or six years before returning in 2010, is such a draw on campus that they’ve had to make a pair teams – one all-female squad and one coed team.
“We had no choice but to form two teams this year, due to the overwhelming amount of talent we had at tryouts,” says Young.
At last season’s nationals, Guelph earned a second place finish, and just narrowly missed out on first place.
“It hurt a bit,” said Young, of that slim defeat. “But it definitely made us stronger.”
This year, they had a goal of finishing in first place and they delivered with aplomb. The team “made history. It’s a huge accomplishment,” says Young, who rolls into Guelph from Burlington for the team’s three-times-a-week practices.
The Gryphons finished in first at the championships with 409.3 points. In second was Wilfrid Laurier, with 383.3.
The Guelph coed team earned fourth place in their division.
An earlier highlight of the club’s championship season was getting to be right there, on the sidelines, and leading cheers during the Gryphons football team’s stunning run to a 7-1 record and a berth in the Yates Cup game.
“It was phenomenal to see the boys do so well,” says Young, who adds that preparations are already under way for the cheerleading team’s efforts for the 2013 OUA football season.
Young says that the club’s speedy climb has been helped by its growing reputation – once word gets around, it makes it easier to attract great athletes to the team.
Among the 60-plus competitors on the Gryphons are two dudes – Tristan Emiry and Nathan Valsangkar – on the coed team
“They love it,” says Young. Both came in rather inexperienced in cheerleading but learned fast, says the coach.
“The thing with cheerleading is if you’re athletic, you can pick it up pretty quickly,” says Young.
Asked what that dynamic is like for them, Young says that when a couple of guys walk into their first practice and everyone else is female, things can probably go two ways.
She says that on one hand they might think: “Yeah! We get to cheerlead with a bunch of women!’
“Or it’s ‘Oh no, we’re in a room full of women!’” says Young, with a laugh.
Cheerleading champs roster: Olenka Iwanicki, Karin Taylor, Brooke Gillies, Emma Conron, Gabb Skibinski, Natalie Williams, Micaela Sobrino, Rachel Mencfeld, Kaleigh Potts, Rebecca Owen, Jessi Sellon, Natalie Asaro, Meghan Hefford, Alysha Thomson, Kendall Stoiner, Roxanne Bilski, Lauren Morrison, Jordan Tremblay, Cassidy McNeil, Lyndsay Wallis, Kendra Neil, Michelle Blanchard, Tonya Gnap, Oleisha Kegels, Jessamine Esteva, Kaleigh Mcilveen, Miriam Schwabe, Kristen De Castro, Sarah Dort, Shannon De Groot, Risa Marascio, Jess Bruce, Christy Cornell, Hannah Hyland, Virginia Wright, Emily Towers.
Coaches: Cari-Ann Young, Aaron Murphy, Chauntelle Legere, Heather Szentimrey, Alyson Roberts, Paige Caletti.