Throughout the 2014 season, Webster’s cheerleading squad had only four to five consistent members, but in 2015, Webster is putting a new emphasis on its cheer squad by making the school’s first-ever competitive cheer team.
The new coach
Webster University and director of athletics Scott Kilgallon made a commitment to the Gorlok’s 2015 cheerleading squad when they hired Justin Barton, assistant director of first year experience programs department, to be the new head coach.
“We made a commitment and hired Justin Barton, who is on campus, and that is to grow the team,” Kilgallon said. “We would like to see that become a vibrant offering for our students to take part in.”
Barton started the cheer program as a student at Jefferson Community College in 1997 before transferring to Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) on a partial cheerleading scholarship. Barton cheered at SEMO for three years, captaining the team for one. Barton went to work for Olympiad Gymnastics as a cheerleading and tumbling coach.
Barton was a head cheer coach of his former school, Jefferson College, for seven years. In those years, Jefferson College won two national championships. Barton was an assistant coach at Ursuline Academy, a private, all-girls high school in Oakland, MO. for five years before being named head coach at Webster for 2015.
“He’s an amazing coach. He’s not intimidating. You can joke around with him, but he can still be serious and get stuff done.” Allie Lambing, second year cheerleader at Webster University, said.
A new philosophy
Two cheerleaders return from last year. There are 14 cheerleaders overall on the co-ed team, 12 women and two men for the 2015 season.
Barton said the environment from last year has changed coming into this year.
“It’s a completely different philosophy,” Barton said. “It’s a completely different program. It’s a completely different level of training.”
Expect the squad to be more involved at games as well. Barton said there will be more of an emphasis on spirit at games through dancing, stunts, cheers and chants.
“You will see the cheerleaders performing at every time out. And you will see the cheerleaders perform during every halftime. You also will see them cheer at any 30 second time out,” Barton said.
The cheerleaders will work mainly with all men’s and women’s basketball home games, some away games, depending on proximity, along with NCAA tournament play. Barton will not limit the team to just basketball. As the team grows, he expects the team to attend baseball and soccer games, registration events and new student orientation events in hopes of raising school spirit around campus.
Building Webster’s first competitive cheer program is Barton’s ultimate goal. Instead of cheering at just Webster events, Barton hopes to take the team to competitions.
“The goal is to build a team that can compete at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) National Championships,” Barton said. “It’s going to be a year or so down the road before we are able to get up to that caliber.”
Competitive cheerleading is when teams perform a routine including stunts, jumps and tumbling (movements involving one person i.e. a gymnastics floor routine). Teams are judged on difficulty and execution.
Members of the team like the difference in the program and hope the team can start competing in competitions.
“This year we are doing more stunting,” Lambing said. “Our jumps are better. It’s just an overall better team that works well together.”