It is rare in sports to be able to witness the rise of greatness. It is rarer to be able to recognize a piece of sports history in the making that will lay the foundation for many decades to come. The California Baptist University stunt team fits this category, not only because stunt as a sport is beginning to gain traction in America, but also because of how well the team has developed itself into becoming the national standard for stunt at the collegiate level. The program is one of only three Division-I stunt programs in the nation and has won the national championships two years in a row, coinciding with how many years the program has existed. The stunt team has been its own separate team from cheer since the start of the 2020-2021 season.
Brandon Seagondollar, stunt coach, has helped build the CBU team as one of the first official NCAA stunt teams and one of the best stunt teams in the nation.
“It’s all about adaptability and being willing to change,” Seagondollar said. “I always want to try to revamp it. I want to try to make it better. How can we add on to it? How can we layer it? Keep recalibrating and keep reforming and reshaping who we are instead of just trying to stay the same. We need to add on to it each year and get better because [the] more talent that walks through the door means more opportunities to get better.”
Since the sport is relatively new, even top schools in the nation, such as UCLA or Harvard, do not have their own official stunt programs. However, this also poses a challenge for Seagondollar. As the sport continues to grow, competition and recruitment will only continue to become tougher.
“CBU is the trailblazer of Division I with stunt,” Seagondollar said. “We were the first-ever varsity Division-I stunt program. We are creating the legacy now and we just keep building on that. It’ll be a while before any of those schools can catch up because of the legacy that was created from the first trailblazing moment from the first team, [versus] team seven [or] eight down the road. We’ve already stacked on top of it and created this legacy that we’ll keep getting the athletes in to make it better and better. There may be years that we stumble, but as long as we fall forward, we’ll keep that momentum. We’ll keep pushing forward.”
Jordan Bruce, junior psychology major, shared some of what she believes has contributed to the team’s success.
“The athletes (in) this program are not only hand-selected, but incredibly gifted,” Bruce said. “We’ve also overcome a lot of hard days to get where we are. That ability to not just survive our most challenging days, but to also walk away stronger is something I believe this team excels at. As for weaknesses, sometimes it’s hard to believe in ourselves and recognize our own hard work, but already this team has been working on that belief that God has us all here for a reason.”
The team is still early in its season and has many competitions ahead of them. So far they are undefeated this season, having won both the Arizona State Tournament and Dallas Baptist University Tournament. However, this season has some critical differences compared to last year, especially with divisions. One major change is that each level of the NCAA divisions will have its own championship tournament for the three different NCAA divisions this year.
“I’m feeling great about this season,” Bruce said. “The routines are harder than last year, so we’ve really had to come together and work hard to execute the more difficult skills. I think we’ll do very well this year. This team has a lot of talent and dedication to the sport. With D-I and D-II no longer playing against each other at championships, we will be going to championships against the UK’s stunt team in April.”
This success is only possible due to the work the athletes put into the program. Karington Sebastian, junior psychology major and member of the stunt team, said her coaches push her and her teammates to be the best they can become.
“We train hard and we train a lot,” Sebastian said. “Our coach tries to put us under high-pressure situations at practice, where practices can sometimes be more pressure than games. That puts pressure on us, so when we go to games, all we need to do is genuinely focus on having fun. Games tend to be more low stress than practices sometimes.”
The Stunt National Championship will take place on April 15 in the Van Dyne Gym at CBU.