by Kervy Robles, Sports Editor
Oklahoma Baptist University welcomed the cheerleading program and head coach Jessica Stiles in March of 2015.
The addition of competitive cheer permitted the Lady Bison to operate under the athletics department and award scholarships from the university.
“When looking for a place to build a spirit program, I wanted a small community but one that also felt ‘big’ and dreamed ‘big’ into the future,” head coach Stiles said.
“I wanted to be able to bring students into an environment that had absolutely excellent, known academics, a Christian atmosphere and a school with a lot of tradition,” she said.
The cheer team believes that coach Stiles is the right person to lead the competitive spirit program.
“I have known [Jessica] Stiles since high school,” senior Bailey Davis said. “She greatly influenced my decision about coming to OBU. Coach Stiles is a dedicated and hardworking woman; she expects a lot from us,” she said.
This dedication and hard work are essential characteristics that coach Stiles has set an example of since day one.
As a result, the Lady Bison earned a third place at the National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate National Championship in Florida.
“For a competition like that you have to prepare mentally and physically,” Davis said.
“We worked for months in advance on our two minutes and 30 seconds routine.”
Junior Kailey Moore said that the team learned to work together.
“As a very young team we only had about four or five girls who had ever been to NCA tournament, so it was definitely a learning experience for everyone,” Moore said.
“We were considered to be a finalist in Division II all-girl. We did very well in the first day and had a great chance to go back and finish top 3 again,” Moore said.
Moore also commented about the strength of the Lady Bison during such an important competition.
“Our greatest strength was how close of a team we were,” she said.
“We were more of a family than a team. This is what made our first-year building season very successful.”
After the achievement in the NCA championship, the OBU cheer team was one of four Division II teams heading to Sacramento, California for the 2016 College STUNT National Championship.
“For the cheerleading team to be one of four teams to qualify for STUNT nationals in our first year as a program is incredible,” Stiles said.
“This honor just speaks to the talent we have as a program and the wonderful work ethic of the athletes we have.”
The preparation not only involved long days of training, it also brought new strategies of development.
“Our preparation consisted on watching films like other sports,” junior Peyton Jenkins said.
“We watched counts for a stunt and what stunt is for which level. Once we figured it out, we executed it over and over until it was completely perfect. It took several hours even outside of practice time,” Jenkins said.
The experience in the STUNT tournament left a better understanding of how to train to be successful in future tournaments for the Lady Bison.
In the aperture of the 2016-2017 season, the cheer team represented OBU with honors.
“We attended collegiate camp in August, where we received one of four gold bids to nationals,” Stiles said.
“[After] beating Oklahoma State University in the ‘game day’ division, we were placed second overall among 17 other universities,” she said.
Once again, the Lady Bison managed to compete in a tough competition by working together as a consolidated team.
“The collegiate level of cheer camp was much faster and harder than high school,” freshman Allison Rippy said.
“Learning all of the criteria for camp and putting a routine together in just a few days was stressful. As a team we worked together to get a gold bid we were praying for,” Rippy said.
The remarkable accomplishments have set high expectations for the cheer team and coach Stiles.
“We now set our sights on training the skills we need for our STUNT tournaments and NCA nationals routine,” Stiles said.
“We expect to make it to STUNT nationals (which are in January-March) with a much higher placing. We also expect to raise our placing at NCA competition (In April) with the ultimate goal of coming home with our first national title.”