North Texas Cheer hopes to uses third place finish in Daytona to improve with new talent and fifth-year seniors

North Texas Cheer hopes to uses third place finish in Daytona to improve with new talent and fifth-year seniors

North Texas Cheer hopes to uses third place finish in Daytona to improve with new talent and fifth-year seniors
April 27
09:41 2016

Nealie Sanchez | Staff Writer

@NealieSanchez

The North Texas Cheer team placed third out of 18 teams in the National Cheerleaders Association Daytona competition in a new division this year, marking the end of four four-year seniors’ collegiate careers.

For All-Girl Captain Clonisha Stewart, she knew before the competition earlier this month her heart was heavy about leaving everything on the mat this year.

“The only thing bothering me is that this is the last time I’ll compete with this team,” Stewart said before heading to Daytona.

Head Coach Tracie O’ Neal said she understands how Stewart feels and knows how difficult it was to lose strong competitors, even though she said she’s excited for new talent.

“It’s tough to lose four strong seniors,” O’ Neal said. “They all bring different things to the table, so it’s going to be hard to fill their shoes, but not impossible.”

Overcoming their obstacles last year and placing third has gained the North Texas Cheer team attention and legitimized them as a competitor in the college cheer world.

The jump in success could also potentially open the door for more potential talent.

“We’ve always had a good competitive team. Unfortunately, in cheer it’s what you do in Daytona beach that really puts you on the map,” O’ Neal said. “We really turned some heads this year and made people go, ‘They really are a good program. They have something to prove.’ I know for a fact we have because my e-mail has been blowing up this week with recruiting emails.”

While North Texas may now be able to bring in a higher volume of talent, not all of its seniors will be leaving the team. Both Stewart and co-ed captain Bianca Lawrence have decided to attend graduate school at UNT and become five-year veterans for the cheer team.

Stewart originally thought she had seen her last NCA Daytona performance but is happy to have another chance to perform on the Band Shell Amphitheater mat next year.

“I didn’t know [that I was staying] yet. It was a bittersweet moment,” Stewart said. “I was happy with how we performed, but I thought it was the last time.”

They are able to do this because the NCA allows cheerleaders to compete in five NCA Daytona Competitions, with the only stipulation being the cheerleader must attend the college that they are cheering for. These two cheerleaders have only been in three NCA Daytona Competitions because the team didn’t start going until their sophomore years.

The official NCA guidelines state that each team member must be a current full-time student of the institution they are representing or enrolled in a minimum of nine credit hours. The guidelines also give allowance for seniors and graduate students to be enrolled in fewer hours.

Lawrence plans to capitalize on these guidelines.

“I’ll be continuing on to grad school, so why not?” Lawrence said. “I’m still going to be here and I still have a little more in me.”

Lawrence said she ultimately hopes to use the extra year to give rookies valuable advice and spend time learning more about her sport.

“Every year we dedicate to the team is a whole new year of learning for us,” she said. “One extra year gives me time to give extra advice.”

While the team is excited to keep two strong competitors, it’s also looking forward to inviting new talent onto the team.

“Based off of our recent clinics, I think we will have a strong group of rookies coming in,” three-year veteran Allyson Cortinas said. “There is a lot of talent there, and I think they are really going to help us build our program.”

O’ Neal has a renewed sense of pride in her team after executing a near perfect routine this year and redeeming themselves. But right now, she said she’s keeping her focus on building the team’s new and current talents for next year.

“I left this year with a feeling that all this hard work was not for nothing,” O’Neal said. “It was tough to strap our boots back on and [say] ‘Okay, we’re going to go try again.’ But I’m much more positive now. Now I know we can do it. Now I know it’s not impossible. We have the tools and now we just need to fine tune the execution.”

Featured Image: Nealie Sanchez | Staff Writer

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