Jan. 22, 2015
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Purdue cheerleading squad continues to make strides as a program and climb the rankings at UCA college nationals. The Boilermakers placed sixth in the all-girl stunt group championships and placed fifth as a team. It marks the first time ever Purdue had an all-girl stunt group and a team compete at nationals.
"It was exciting knowing that we not only would be competing as a team, but to also qualify an all-girl stunt group," head coach Steve Solberg said. "We knew we had a lot of talent on this team, so qualifying for both wasn't a huge surprise, but was still exciting."
Knowing they had more skill, the coaching staff and athletes knew that this year would be different than past years.
"This year's preparation for nationals was unlike any previous year," assistant coach Nicole Smith said. "The expectations were much higher. Our theme heading to nationals was 'we belong,' which was a constant reminder that for the first time in years, Purdue cheerleading belonged at the top with some of the best teams in the country."
The team competed in Division I small coed, which is comprised of schools who are as an athletics department Division I or IA and have no more than four males on the competition floor. The all-girl stunt group had to send in a video by early November to receive a bid. A total of 24 all-girl stunt groups sent a video and only 12 received a bid to compete at nationals. In the video rankings, Purdue placed 10th overall.
Team choreography started in October and practices were held once or twice a week until finals week. After finals week, the team had a couple of two-a-day practices before getting six days off for Christmas. After break, the team came back and had a week and a half of two-a-days to get ready for nationals.
"The time commitment these athletes give is unbelievable," coach Solberg exclaimed. "While all of their friends and teammates are home, they are here on campus, practicing twice a day for hopefully five minutes of mat time. The nationals season always shows people's true colors and commitment, and in the end, all of those involved with this year's nationals team didn't disappoint."
In between team practices was when the all-girl stunt group was able to practice. While they were excited to receive a bid, they knew they could be better than 10th overall, so they knew they wanted to amp up the routine.
"We knew if we were smart that we could possibly be in the top five," coach Smith said. "We added some transitions and difficulty and after they hit the routine at a couple of live performances, we knew that this was the right routine for them."
Before leaving for Orlando, the team and all-girl stunt group had live performances after three basketball games and their friends and family exhibition, and all went well. The team members felt confident that they had the right routines to make them competitive.
Before leaving for nationals, the Boilermaker family showed its support, as three head coaches and a Purdue alum each talked to the team and showed their support and gave the team a pep talk about competing and what it takes to be a winner.
"It was humbling to have David Boudia, coach Painter, coach Greene and coach Hazell take time out of their day to encourage us and give us their words of wisdom," freshman Taylor Scheid said. "It was yet another learning experience in my life on how to continue to grow as a leader."
The team arrived in Orlando on a Thursday and had a day off for travel. On Friday, the team had a 20-minute mat time provided by UCA where the athletes warmed up everything and threw a full-out routine that went well. The team followed that up with another great afternoon practice outdoors and then was off to the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports to cheer on and support the all-girl stunt group.
Warm-ups started rough for the group, but the competitors composed themselves and were able to hit their routine in the warm-up area before taking the floor.
The ladies of Purdue all-girl took the floor and hit a great routine with just one bobble. They were one of the few groups to have a routine with zero deductions, which was the plan. Knowing they might not have the upper level difficulty of other groups, they had to have a routine with zero drops, which they did. In the end, Purdue placed sixth in the nation, a jump of four spots from their ranking after taping.
"As Purdue's first all-girl group to compete, I am proud of have placed sixth best in the nation," senior Candace Crowley said. "Representing Purdue against the incredible talent this division attracts was a dream come true."
The team was energized after watching their teammates place sixth and that momentum carried over to Saturday, when the team competition began.
After a great warm-up, the team waited for its name to be called for the semi-final round. There was a total of 17 teams in this division and only 11 would qualify for the final round.
Purdue went on to throw one of its best routines ever and had the crowd excited from the beginning. The Boilermakers were only one of three teams in the division to have zero deductions and overall scored a 91.25 out of 100, placing them third in the semi-final round and qualifying for the final round.
"After I looked at our score sheets from the semi-final round, it validated that we were a competitive team this year," coach Solberg said. "After I told the team that we were third and were ahead of the returning national champion, they got real excited."
The team drew the seventh position in finals and only had about a two-hour break before having to go out and do it again in finals. In finals, all scores are set back to zero, so what you do in semi-finals doesn't matter going into finals.
Your Boilermakers had another great warm-up and went out for finals for their last performance ever as a team. The team threw another solid routine, but did have one drop which resulted in a small deduction. In finals, the team scored an 88 out of 100, which placed them in fifth overall.
"After semi-finals, we all finally realized what it feels like to be one of the best teams in the country," coach Smith said. "We knew that we finally 'belonged.' Although fifth place was not the outcome we hoped for, we knew our job was complete: we made everyone see how much talent and hard work we put into our routine."
Fifth place is the highest Purdue has ever finished at UCA college nationals. More important than the placement and the improvement of the program are the lessons learned from the journey.
"Competing at college nationals is more than just competing on the mat," junior Luke Smith said. "The nationals season is about finding yourself and staying hungry. Nationals season requires you to dig deeper, mentally and physically, more than anything you've ever had to do before. Now that I've experienced such a grueling, but rewarding, experience, I know I will be able to tackle anything that's thrown at me."
For the seniors on the team, they couldn't have asked to go out in a better way.
"I could not have asked for a better final nationals experience to go out with," senior Kelsey Minix said. "Between the team, the coaches, our trainers and our strength coach, everything about this final nationals experience for me was so great because of all the wonderful individual people we had working together as one unit to get the job done. If people did not know who Purdue was before nationals, they sure do now. I already look forward to seeing how well my team will do next year and years to come at nationals."
All-Girl Stunt Group Championship Results
- Hofstra University
- Morehead State University
- Columbus State University
- University of Colorado
- University of West Georgia
- Purdue University
- North Carolina State
- Liberty University
- University of Delaware
- San Diego State University
Division I Small Coed Final Results
- Hofstra University
- University of Memphis
- Bowling Green State University
- University of Alabama-Birmingham
- Purdue University
- Liberty University
- George Mason University
- Northern Kentucky University
- Troy University
- Southeastern Louisiana University
- Ball State University
Click Here to watch the routine.