California Baptist University’s competition cheer team brought home the National Cheer Association title April 5, taking first place for the seventh year in a row. Despite the continued legacy of wins, this win held more weight as it makes the first win while competing as Division I athletes.
Tami Fleming, head cheer coach, said winning is great, but it is not why she coaches.
“Winning never gets old. I love to win, but that’s not why I coach,” Fleming said. “We tell all the athletes, whether we win or lose, whether we’re injured or healthy, despite our highs and lows, we are still a family at the end of the day.
“The trophies and the banners on the wall don’t define who we are; it’s just a cherry on top for the program.”
For Morgan Willis, senior health science major and base, winning the DI national title in her last season held a lot of weight.
“I wanted to further my cheer career for my hometown. I wanted to make them proud,” Willis said.
When asked to describe the emotions that came with her last win and season, Willis struggled to find the words.
“I don’t have the words to explain. Just the adrenaline-I was crying. It was an incredible feeling. I was speechless,” Willis said. “It was bittersweet to end a 14-year cheer career, but I’m comfortable, content.”
Taylor Contratto, senior kinesiology major and flyer, is a four-year recipient of the “All-American” title. In her 10 years of cheer, her experience at CBU has differed greatly from other programs.
“It’s a world of a difference. The program here is centered around God, everything is tightly scheduled, and it’s family–oriented. We are with each other every single day,” Contratto said. “We all have the same goal here-we are all focused on hitting the routine.”
Contratto said the core principles in the program is “being a selfless teammate and putting others before yourself.”
Kaitlyn Statham, senior public relations major and flyer, explained the feeling that comes with stepping onto the mat for the final performance.
“Physically, we all know we can walk out and hit our routine, but it’s the mental part, trying to control your emotions in the high-intensity situation. That’s the most intimidating part,” Statham said. “It’s about controlling yourself in that moment and staying composed even when the pressure is on.”
Statham explained how the team is family-oriented.
“This is probably one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. Just knowing that you have dozens of sisters who would go to bat for you any day was the best part. It was definitely more sentimental to walk off that stage one last time,” Statham said.
Fleming said, “We are very much a sport and that’s one of the misconceptions about cheer, but the bottom line is they are incredible hard-working athletes. We are more than just a sport; we have the family aspect and the journey, and our program has a different story because of that.”
The CBU cheer program is officially closed for the season but will start again in July with cheer camp, which includes NCA, the National Dance Association and the United Spirit Association.