USF takes fourth and eighth place at nationals, avenges last second mistake from 2017 competition

Competing at UCA Nationals in Orlando, USF all-girl cheerleading finished in fourth place, while co-ed finished eigth. THE ORACLE/CHAVELI GUZMAN

For USF cheerleaders, winter break wasn’t filled with rest and relaxation.

Instead, from Dec. 1 to Friday, both the all-girl and co-ed cheer squads practiced twice a day, every day, with the only break coming in the span of Dec. 23-26. What they were preparing for, the 2018 UCA College Cheerleading National Championship in Orlando, started on Saturday for both squads, with the all-girl team finishing 4th in the nation and the co-ed squad placing 8th after finals on Sunday.

“Every day in December is dedicated to the routine, all the way into January until we compete in Nationals on the fouth,” all-girl cheerleader Jazmyne McCloud said. “We’re also doing other sporting events and getting ready for the Spring semester. It can be a  lot.”

In addition to the practices, both squads cheered at men’s and women’s basketball games throughout break and made the trip to Birmingham, Alabama, for USF football’s Birmingham Bowl.

Even at football games, however, the preparation for competition was still a priority.

“The whole year, we were just focusing on hitting our sets and making sure that we rep our stunts out so much,” McCloud said. “Our coach prepares us so much for the competition. At football games, we cannot drop our stunts at all, and if we do, we have to re-do the stunt 10 times after the game to instill — falling is not an option.”

For the all-girl squad, the goal entering this season was to finish in the top five in the nation and avenge last year’s seventh place finish, which they did with a spot to spare.

For McCloud and her teammates, what hurt even worse than the 7th-place finish last year was why the Bulls finished where they did.

After a nearly flawless routine, the all-girl squad messed up in the final moments of its performance and dropped the ending pyramid, which proved costly to the Bulls who were previously en route to a top five finish, according to McCloud.

“Last year I was an alternate, but being on the sidelines and watching the whole routine hit, and the very last pyramid falling at the very last second — everybody just went into a (collective sigh),” McCloud said. “Every second before the pyramid was perfect. You could even hear the whole arena feel that feeling too. It was just an ‘aw man’ moment because you spend all of December practicing and your whole month is dedicated to cheerleading.

“A lot of people are even from out of state. They can’t even have a Christmas break because we’re practicing. You dedicate so much time and you want it to be worth it, you want it to be good and you want to represent your school in the best way possible. So yeah, it was devastating.”

Now that the competition is over, however, both squads have some time to catch up on the rest and relaxation they missed over break, which started with a free trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios after the competition.

“After the competition’s awards they blocked off the whole park and all the cheerleaders went and rode rides from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.,” McCloud said. “A park full of nothing but cheerleaders. It was interesting.”