The Viking Spirit Renaissance: The reemergence, success and challenges ahead of cheerleading club

The Cheerleading Club became active this fall after 3 years of inactivity and is once again raising spirit on campus. Photo by Konrad Odhiambo


Tyler McNeil

Creative Editor

Nearly a dozen active students were moving to a blend of pop music including Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” for about two hours in the McDonough Sports Complex last Friday.

This wasn’t a credit-free community fitness course, a Student Senate sponsored dance or post-basketball practice horseplay. This was a practice for the Cheerleading Club, one of the latest organizations on campus, conceived to promote school spirit.

DSC_1155Since last fall, cheerleaders have been active on the sidelines of football and basketball games for the first time since spring 2011. The cheerleading club helped organize the historical send off for the football team in December. “Their involvement really helped the crowd get engaged prior to the send off and they’ve really made an effort to get more people involved with this campus,” said Jessica Gilbert, advisor to the Cheerleading squad.

During the football season, they helped us out a lot. From being here last year, I noticed the culture is a lot more positive” said Victor Terry, football player now active in Cheerleading club.

The club, created by My’Asia Colon, Student Senate Vice President still strives to be something more — an official team. “There’s a lot of things we want to do that we’re not allowed to do because we’re not a sports team. That’s where the big controversy is,” Colon said. Students are not permitted to practice over break, perform certain stunts, or go to competitions within a club budget.

According to the co-captain, Taylar Delisle, the squad has been advancing towards that, and very little progress has been made with the club transitioning into being an official team. “We’ve been told [by the athletic department], if you guys keep doing good, this is going to keep going up. I see nothing,” said Delisle.

Cheerleading club currently has 14 members on their roster. The club rose to have 18 members last semester.

While running for Student Senate Vice President in spring 2014, she worked with Gilbert to push for a Cheerleading Club by August, “My biggest platform was to get students more involved and, in my personal experience, cheerleading does that,” said Colon.

Gilbert, the current advisor to the club who also advises the Black and Latino Student Union (BLSU) and the Criminal Justice Club, met Colon through the BLSU and discovered mutual interests to bring school spirit back to the college through cheer. “I’ve gone to her about school work and really just whatever so our relationship has grown,” said Colon.

Gilbert also encouraged her to run for Student Senate Vice President. “I encouraged her to run because she’s so dynamic and such a strong person,” Gilbert said.

Over the summer, Colon worked with Gilbert to put cheerleading club on the top of the pyramid. Their first practice started on Aug. 26, with about ten girls on the softball field. “We love it and we see that it’s going to grow even further and we’re going to be in the right place,” said Colon.

The organization is currently limited in the stunts they are allowed to perform but the Student Senate Vice President regards stunts as a low priority as long as cheerleaders are active with the campus community.

“We had to polish them in a way that they looked clean but still fell under the school’s regulations,” said Colon. Under Hudson Valley guidelines, cheerleaders are not allowed to be lifted over the shoulders.

“Younger girls are doing more than were doing now and it’s not taken seriously. If it’s not taken seriously, people show up thinking ‘whatever’,” said Jenelle Pinke, individual studies student whose twin sister, Rianne also participates in Cheerleading Club.

Delisle, liberal arts major has been cheering for about 15 years and currently works as a coach at All Star Cheerleading based in Albany. “I would still be involved in it,” she said, if cheerleading was not at Hudson Valley.KON_9176

Colon hasn’t been cheerleading as long a Delisle but considers her dedication to sport stronger than ever. Her first experience with cheerleading was at Cohoes Middle School, but her devotion to the sport grew as years progressed, “As soon as I entered high school, I became very interested in cheerleading,” she said.

Originally set on North Carolina State University after High School, Colon refused to put her pom-poms down and let cheerleading go as her choice moved to Hudson Valley.

Colon also works with the BLSU and organizing events for the Student Senate. Said Colon, “I try to incorporate them all together. I want to give my all to every single section but i’m only human.”

Colon isn’t the only member of the squad involved with multiple campus organizations. “This is my third club but if I didn’t have it, my time on campus wouldn’t be the same,” said Debora Nora, architecture student.

Gilbert has promoted campus involvement within the team itself. “It’s important to cross pollinate. It’s how you learn and how you grow,” she said.

Being a member of the Criminal Justice club, his major, Terry said Gilbert persuaded him to join the Cheerleading team at the end of the last year’s football season. He recalled, “I go to her office every day and she was like, ‘Hey Vic, footballs over and I know you were interested before … “

Terry considers Cheerleading Club an opportunity for him to partake in something he never had the time to do in high school. “I always wanted to do it but never had the time to do it until now,” he said.

The lines between cheerleading club and the athletic department have been blurred. “Honestly we connect more with the athletic department than student activities. When it comes to decorating and getting ourselves involved within big games, it’s the Cheerleading Club doing all of that,” said Colon.

Colon worked with Coach Muehling during the 2014 football season who let the club practice on the field which, according to the Student Senate Vice President, is rare. As the weather grew colder, the Cheerleading Club moved into the Conway Ice Rink before the space became even colder when the ice dropped. Currently the team practices in the McDonough field house.

The NJCAA does not support a branch for competitive cheerleading, but cheerleading teams are by athletic departments in two-year public schools across the state such as Broome Community College and Niagara County Community College.

Cheerleading Club is not permitted to practice over break, one of the reasons the team wishes to become a club. “There’s bits and pieces that are hard to remember and it’s not easy to re-teach it. As it looks now, with a month now gone, we’re not going to be able to show our routine for the next game despite our goal. It’s frustrating,” said Delisle.

But, despite the push to become a team, Terry is still content with partaking in the organization. “We’re like a small, tight knit family,” he said.

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