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Cheer team prepares for nationals

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While many students were home for the holidays, the USI cheerleading team worked long and hard during the break.

During these long practices the cheerleaders worked on their competitive routine for the UCA & UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship Jan. 12-14 at Disney World’s ESPN Center in Orlando, Florida.

“I actually wasn’t very upset about having practices over break,” freshman Alyssa Blair said. “We were told at tryouts that if we were lucky we would maybe get a break off for winter break.”

The cheerleaders had practice twice a week. Sometimes even twice a day, usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

“Sometimes I feel like giving up,” sophomore Kaylee Johnson said, “but my teammates are always there to pick me up and push me to my full potential.”

The practices were around three hours or longer.

“There were times we had practice until past midnight and would have to be back at practice by 8:00 the next morning,” Blair said.

She’s been cheering for 13 years and serves as a base, a flyer and a front spot on the USI team.

“We are all very committed to the sport we love,” she said, “and we will do whatever it takes to represent USI well at College Nationals.”

Mercades Axton has been cheering since she was 5 years old. She is a flyer and a top girl in pyramids.

“My favorite part about competing is the adrenaline rush I get from being on stage and in front of a crowd,” the freshman nursing major said.

At nationals, the USI team will compete against 15 other teams in prelims, and then eight teams will move on to finals.

Through the blood, sweat and tears, the cheerleaders consider each other as a small family.

“There is a bond that you create on the floor with your teammates and coaches,” freshman Lillian Hilderbrand said. “They quickly become more than just a team, but your second family.”

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Cheer team prepares for nationals