Cheer team places fifth at nationals

Nik Cunningham, Sports Editor

The USI Cheer team finished 5 out of 18 teams in nationals on Jan.18 in Orlando, Florida.

The Cheer team was competing in the Division II Small Coed Division for the first time since 2016.

“When we made it down there, our first goal was to make it to finals,” Megan Murphy, the first-year head coach for the cheer team, said. ”You had to make the top 9 out of 16 of the finals. From there, our goal was to place as high as possible.”

This was the first year in Division II Small Coed. Last year the Cheer team was in Division I All Girl because there was no All Girl section in Division II.

“We knew that coming in third was a stretch goal,” Murphy said. “So we are really just wanted to go out there and do the best we could and we’re happy with the place in a division, and the competition was tough down there.”

Nationals did not come without challenges. Those challenges presented themselves in the form of five different injuries that happened to three different people and one complication. 

“We had to narrow it down to 16 people on the mat and then it ended up that we did not have 16 people out standard,” Murphy said. “So we had 15 athletes from that on the mat.”

One girl had a foot injury, and then came back and either sprained or broke her ankle. According to Murphy, the player’s first full routine was at Nationals.

Another athlete dislocated her elbow. Murphy was able to add her back in after losing another player to injury and she was healed, with the request not to strain her arm too long.

Megan Murphy was on the Cheer team for four years, graduating in 2017. Every year she was there, the cheer team went to nationals. To say that it was all because of her would be wrong, but it’s safe to say that there will be some high expectations for her.

“After nationals, [the team was] already setting goals for next year,” Murphy said. “So when we have our offseason practices, they’ve already told me what they want to start working on. Which says a lot. It takes a lot of initiative from the team couldn’t be able to reach their goals. I can’t single-handedly say, Hey, I’m going to do this and you guys are going to get this. There are 15 people on that floor that have to work together to make that happen.”