Competitive cheer proves itself a sport

By Jaden Jennings, Contributing Writer

At most universities, cheerleading is often considered an activity instead of a sport because of the lack of competition.

However, this year, the Lady Bison  is working to change that mindset as they prepare to compete.

In addition to participating in STUNT (a cheer competition in OKC) last month, the squad is gearing up for season ahead.

“We train about 12 hours a week, not including the separate NDA (National Dance Alliance) competitive team we have here at OBU,” assistant coach Kaitlan Lombardo said.

Lombardo highlighted the commitment of the girls when they practice up to two times a day to get ready for competition.

In addition to training, they also are required to work out separately on their own time.

“I think exercising outside of practice is good because it keeps us fit and motivated to live a healthy lifestyle,” sophomore Reagan Rowell said.

“If we didn’t, there is no way our stamina would be high enough to get through the rigorous training.”

Aside from practice and exercise, team members recognized they want to prove that cheer is just as much a sport as any at the university.

“People do not really think of a cheerleading as a game, but our first competition is actually a real game that consists of four quarters,” Lombardo said.

“The first quarter will be judged on partner stunts. The second quarter will be a series of pyramids or group stunts,” she said.“The third quarter will be jumps and tumbling and the fourth quarter is all three.”

Although the girls are training competitively now, the cheer program has only been around for two years.

Senior cheerleader Carleigh Neal discussed how the team has evolved during her four years on Bison Hill.

“I have seen it all,” Neal said. “I am the only one on the team who has been here all four years. It is a fairly new squad. When I first got here, only two of us could flip,” she said.

“Now, over half the team can flip. We have improved every year, and I have no doubt that they will keep improving for years to come.”

Even though cheer is a relatively young team, several girls from across the United States have already signed to be a part of the team next year.

“First, the talent of the team is incredible,” spirit coordinator Jessica Stiles said. “If we stayed the way we were for a few years, I would be beyond happy and second, these are Division One quality girls,” she said.

“I would have no problem putting them against any school in the state of Oklahoma. I am blown away by the talent that we have here at this school. It is crazy to think that we have even more talent committed to be here in the fall.”

Lombardo and the Lady Bison  hold big expectations for the cheer program next year.

“We will have multiple competitions throughout the spring semester. Depending on how well we do in each round at the STUNT games determines who we will compete against for that event,” Lombardo said. “This is not just Division Two schools we are talking about, but also OU, OSU and other possible Division One schools.”

Competition is not just the only focus for this team; for many, it represents home.

“I think we will do well at the games. We have definitely come a long way even from last year,” she said. “We have a lot to learn with a new team, but we do not realize how talented we are. OBU has become my home away from home,” Lombardo said.

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