The California Baptist University cheer team will have two stunt groups attend the National Cheerleaders Association College National Championship for the first time in program history.
Taylor Contratto, sophomore exercise major and flyer, said she is excited to have the opportunity to compete with her whole team at championships as well as individual her stunt group.
“We train so hard for this and go through so many highs and lows throughout the season, but no matter what we always stick together and get through it,” Contratto said.
“It is extremely special to me that not only my group made it but also the other stunt group because we get to experience nationals together,” Contratto said.
“It is nice to know that we are not going through the rough times and hard work by ourselves. It is also helpful to have someone who knows what we are going through and the extra hours we have to put in, in order to be able to do this.”
Contratto said the NCACNC is not only a championship but also a learning experience for all the women.
“It is going to be (about) coming back and, no matter if we win or lose, training even harder than we did before,” Contratto said. “You learn so much in a whole cheer season and I love how you can take it and apply it all to the following years in order to get better and better every time.”
Morgan Willis, sophomore undeclared major and base, said competing at the NCA championship is like a dream come true.
“Up to the week before our video was due, we did not know if we were going to be able to tryout because we had a drop in our stunt group,” Willis said. “Once we found a replacement, we worked every day after our practices to try to put a decent routine together. We never hit a solid routine until the day before and it took us hours with multiple attempts.”
Willis said although traveling to Daytona is exciting, making CBU cheer history and taking two teams is exhilarating.
Willis and Contratto agreed overcoming stereotypes and redefining what a cheerleader is can be difficult.
“I’ve been told, through my entire cheer career, all we really do is look pretty and cheer on other teams; we aren’t real athletes, and cheer is not a sport,” Willis said.
Willis said cheer has trained her to always focus on the task at hand and this has helped her never get ahead of herself in challenge.
“Concentrating on the now improves our mental toughness and allows us, as a team, to come together and put all of our efforts toward what is in front of us,” Willis said.
Both athletes said they are especially thankful to their coach, Tami Fleming, for being their ultimate support system.
“(She) always shares her wisdom with this team and teaches us all she can. (She) has done so much for this program and we don’t tell her enough how amazing she really is.”
Fleming said she is proud of both stunt teams for qualifying for national championships.
“I had the goal for the past two years and this is the first year the goal was met,” Fleming said. “There was a lot of extra time and effort — outside of normal team practice time — and it paid off.
Fleming said competing against teams from all over the country is an amazing experience unlike anything else in the sport of cheer.
“This truly is the pinnacle of their cheer careers and being able to compete at the top is an incredible feeling,” Fleming said.
The cheer and the two stunt teams will compete April 5-9 at the NCACNC with two stunt teams in the Daytona Beach Bandshell in Florida where they will aim to make cheer history.