Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura.
Practicing three hours a night, for two nights a week, UND’s cheer team spends time on its formations in order to insure members look smooth between every cheer and stunt at every game.
Even more important during practices, is building trust needed for the stunt routines. Assistant coach Shannon O’Connor says finding the right stunt pairs is essential early on during practices.
“We try to match older people with younger people. We also work with the different heights,” O’Connor said. “We try to match what the guys are able to do to help with the stunt, decide which new girls are going to be our main bases underneath the feet directly, and, of course, the top person, because they have the trust factor and body awareness.”
For all of O’Connor’s reasons, during each practice, the team spends time on stunts and flips in order to build the confidence and trust among its members.
Senior cheerleader Tony Baker said the time the team spends together is crucial to its success early on in the year.
“A lot of the newcomers are a little shaky at first, and they are worried about dropping someone or not balancing, and that is one thing the top should never do,” Baker said. “The trust just builds after a while. You just have to tell them to toss the girl into the air, because there will always be someone there to catch them.”
On game day, the cheer team actually doesn’t spend the majority of their time in front of the crowd.
The cheer team arrives three hours before kickoff to sell raffle tickets to tailgaters. Leading up to the walk throughout Tailgate Alley, freshman cheerleader Macy Allaire said going out there is about more than selling raffle tickets.
“It’s not just a matter of buying some raffle tickets from us. We really do interact with the fans out there,” Allaire said. “We will hangout and chat for a while. Sometimes we will eat with them. Sometimes they will bribe us in order for us sell them raffle tickets; they will ask for us to throw out a stunt or a flip.”
UND fan Lori Wimpfhamer said that she attends many games, and loves seeing the cheer team at tailgate alley.
“They really make you feel like part of what is going on, and they are very nice kids,” Wipfhamer said. “We have a great time with them, and they are always willing try our crazy food. We really appreciate everything they do.”
After the football team and the Pride of the North band march into the stadium, the cheerleaders take the final hour before gametime to practice their cheers before finally performing for the fans during the game.
Changes over time
Looking back over the years to when O’Connor first took part as a member of the squad back in 1988, he says the cheer team has become more active over the years.
“Overall they are more involved in the games.” O’Connor said. “They are more involved in athletic boosters, and the university recognizes them more.”
Besides the increase in involvement, O’Connor said the team’s abilities have blossomed as well.
“The amount of athletic ability they had to what they have now has increased immensely,” he said. “We didn’t have a coach to coach us when I started, so we were guessing. Now there is a technique.”
“Although this year’s team is young, they already have a lot of leadership to lead the team though the long days and difficult practices,” according to coach Breanna Linert.
She said that even the younger team members have stepped up early to make the team successful. In fact, all the men on the team besides Baker are new to cheering this year.
“We have freshmen that have come in, never having done college cheering or even this type of sideline cheerleading, and they are leaders in the group” Linnert said. “It is not so much about your experience, but your ability to be a leader.”
Looking ahead, Baker invites anyone to come out to open stunt to see what the cheer squad is all about.
“If you think it looks easy, come try it and decide for yourself afterwards,” Baker said. “I think everyone should get the chance to come see what we do before they start talking. Come meet us at an open stunt.”
Mathew McKay is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]