Weber State cheer and dance on the map with 2 national titles

Friday , April 14, 2017 - 4:27 PM1 comment

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — On the biggest stage in collegiate cheerleading and dance, Weber State finished on top as national champions.

The cheer team earned its second National Cheerleaders Assocation Division I Coed Cheer national title, and the dance team claimed its first-ever National Dance Association Hip Hop Division I trophy at the NCA & NDA Collegiate Nationals on April 6-8 in Dayton Beach, Florida.

“We’ve been at this steadily and have numerous second-place finishes, last year by two-tenths of a point,” said Summer Willis, Weber State’s Spirit Squad director. “To finally be on top and have it recognized is the icing on the cake. We’ve had a solid program for a number of years.”

The cheer team’s title came with an impressive caveat when judges handed down no deductions to their scores, meaning they felt Weber State’s execution of its routine and stunts were flawless. The second-place team was three points behind the Wildcats’ total of 97.8.

Those high marks are the pinnacle of success in the cheerleading world.

“To hit that perfect routine and get zero deductions is the quest that every team wants,” Willis said. “Sometimes you can’t control what the judges give you in difficulty range, but you can control the outcome of the deductions. To hit zero was a dream come true. It was amazing.”

The dance team, led by assistant coach Michelle Falk, didn’t place as high as they hoped they would with their jazz routine, but they stayed positive and gave the best hip-hop performance of the week.

“It means a lot. We worked really hard,” dance team captain Heather Thomas said. “We put in a lot of hours. We had early mornings, late nights on top of games and appearances. We practiced at least three to four times a week. It really took each and every person giving 100 percent inside and outside of practice.”

Reaching the highest point in collegiate cheerleading was possible, the cheerleaders agree, only through working together as a family under Willis’ dedicated direction. Both teams said they’ve never worked harder than in the year leading up to the national competition at Daytona.

Now, cheerleaders from other parts of the country have started inquiring about the possibility of transferring to Weber State and Willis has been emailing other coaches.

“I had people from Texas, Oregon, everyone texting me, getting a hold of me about tryouts and how the university is. It really puts our name out there. The cheer community is very big,” cheer captain Ed Moroney said. “To win like that, how we did, by how many points we beat everyone by, how dominant our performance was, people will be talking about that for a very long time.”

Cheerleaders often battle the image of their endeavors as sport, or of themselves as athletes.

“Cheerleading is the hardest sport I’ve ever done. I’ve played football, wrestling, baseball, track, basketball, and it is by far the most demanding sport that I’ve ever played,” Moroney said. “You have to be so athletic to be able to tumble, stunt, you have to be strong, you have to have good technique, you have to have a cheer IQ to memorize a routine like that with so many different variables. There are so many things that can go wrong.”

For most of the year, both teams are on the sidelines supporting other Wildcat sports, but when their turn in the limelight came, their efforts and hard work paid off.

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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