April 29, 2017

Cheerleading competes in Nationals for the first time

Only two years after starting its competitive cheerleading program, Webster University competed in the National Cheerleading Championship.

The National Cheerleading Championship took place March 17 in Myrtle Beach. Webster University had zero deductions during its routine and won the Outstanding Award, but did not place.

Webster has had cheerleading in the past, but the administration asked head coach Justin Barton to step up the program to a more competitive level.

“I came in and there were four students on the team and last year we had 12,” Barton said. “This year we grew to 18. Then, I am hoping to cap out at no more than 25, so I would like to have 23 to 25 cheerleaders on next year’s team.”

Last summer, Barton invited two coaches from the Universal Cheerleading Association to instruct cheerleaders during a three-day camp.

“We meshed with those coaches really well, so we brought them back to be our choreographers for our national routine,” Barton said. “They helped build the framework for what we are using now.”

Some of the cheerleaders were dancers prior to joining competitive cheerleading, according to Barton.

Sophomore Nicole Rozier cheered at her high school prior to coming to Webster. She said she was able to help her teammates out with stunts and transitions, and they have helped her as well.

“When I say I dance, I’m used to cheer dancing, which is very sharp and to a point,” Rozier said. “When I have most of the team who has danced a long time, who are dance majors, they actually help put the dances together. They actually help choreograph.”

Rozier said she is a base for stunts, responsible for holding up a cheerleader and keeping her upright while she is in the air. Rozier added she is able to work well in groups.

“Working with Justin and my teammates, I’ve been able to do different positions stunting-wise,” Rozier said. “I have a lot of experience stunting, so I can help my team with different stunts and transitions.”

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Cheerleader Alexandria Ainsworth was on the dance team at Webster before Barton talked her into coming to an open gym two years ago.

Ainsworth said she had no previous experience with cheerleading before joining the cheer squad. She said Barton has been influential in her development as a cheerleader.

“A lot of the cheerleaders have never cheered before coming to Webster, and weren’t used to cheerleading,” Ainsworth said. “[Barton] helped with not just knowing the skills, but having the confidence to execute what he needed to have as a [coach] at Webster.”

Webster competed with seven different schools at the intermediate level in the National Cheerleading Championships.

“For us it is not a matter of placement, it’s a matter of getting out there and competing for the first time in Webster history,” Barton said. “So regardless of what place we get, we are going to come back as a nationally-ranked team.”

Cheerleader Carolynne Barrow said she was excited to take part in the National Cheerleading Championships. She was in theatre in high school and this is her second year in cheerleading.

“Personally, I’m going for the experience, going to give it my best and leave it all on the mat,” Barrow said. “It’s our first year going to competition and some of these girls have never cheered before this year.”

The cheerleading squad cheered for all the home basketball games for the men’s and women’s teams this year. They have also cheered at special events and preview days.

Barton said this is the highest caliber cheerleading team in school history.

“Cheerleading is actually a really difficult sport made to look super easy,” Barton said. “It takes a lot of practice and a lot of time. A lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to that point where you make it look easy even when you are executing some really difficult stunts.”

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