April 12, 2010
Cullowhee, N.C. - Lacey Canada is a senior Communications major from Chapin, S.C., and is a member of the Western Carolina cheerleading squad. WCU's Cheerleaders competed in the 30th-Annual National Cheerleaders Association (NCA)/National Dance Association (NDA) Collegiate Cheer & Dance Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., last week, April 7-11.
Western Carolina finished fifth after the preliminary rounds at the competition, advancing to the finals for the first-time since 2002. However, an injury during the finals routine relegated the Catamounts to a seventh-place finish overall in their division.
Canada recaps the experience following the preliminary round through finals in her student-athlete blog.
Thursday night, April 8, we had practice. Everyone was so excited about making it to finals. This is the first time since 2002 that Western Carolina had made it to finals. The first thing we did was watch a DVD provided by NCA. It was a DVD of our routine with a vocal critique; this let us know what the judges were thinking and what we need to focus on more. After we watched the DVD, we headed out to the grass and got started practicing.
Knowing that we didn't do our best in preliminaries but still managed to get fifth and make it to the finals gave us all high hopes. The energy at practice was amazing, everyone was really excited. We knew nerves played a big role in our performance, but now we have done it once, we know the feeling, we just have to pretend like we are back in Reid Gym and hit our routine like we know how. We worked hard to fix the critiques that were given, running each stunt sequence a few times; this is reiterated that we know how to do it. We all just have to do the exact same thing every time. Practice felt good, we felt ready to go.
On Friday (April 9) we had a short practice in the morning. We walked through our routine and talked about each section and what each person was going to do to make it work. Around 1:45 pm we headed over to the Ocean Center. Originally finals were to be held at the Band Shell, unfortunately due to weather they had to move finals in the Ocean Center. One of the best things about finals is making it to the Band Shell. You compete outside with thousands of people watching. It was a little bit of a disappointment, however we had competed once in the Ocean Center and we knew what it was like and we have felt the floor. We could use the Ocean Center to our advantage because we are used to it.
Once again we got two, 15 minute warm-up times. Our warm-up went well; our stunts and tumbling were hitting and we had a lot of energy. After warm-ups, we had another 45 minute wait. Today we were all laughing, dancing and having a good time. Throughout our team we have a few hidden talents; we huddled up and let these people shine. We had everything for dancing and rapping to singing to stomping. We were so stoked and ready to compete.
We came out on the floor with so much energy; you could tell we were ready to put on the show of our lives. However, something happened and from the beginning we had a few mistakes. Nothing major - a touchdown in the opening tumbling, a bobble in the full-ups, a bobble in the X out, and a fall in the tumbling sequence. Like I said nothing major but these are things we have worked so hard on and they shouldn't have happened.
Then the worst thing that could happen to a cheerleader during a routine did. One of our girls blew out her knee while tumbling mid-way through the routine ... (the NCA trainers said it was her ACL, LCL, and maybe her MCL; once we get back to Cullowhee we will find out the finals diagnosis). We still had a stunt sequence and the ending pyramid left, she is a major part of both. Her injury affected my stunt group; we tried to help her up but then realized her injury was too severe.
We quickly started thinking about the ending pyramid. If one side didn't go up, the people in the front wouldn't know and they would still throw the top girl, leading to disaster. Running to the pyramid, we pulled the back spot to base, and the back spot in the other group stepped in. We had fixed the pyramid, but there are little crowd or show things that go on in-between main parts. Not everyone knew what was going on and things got off, we also had a stunt fall on the side because they didn't have their whole group.
During preliminaries, if a team member gets hurt they stop the music and you have 30 minutes to fix what you can. Then you go back on, doing the whole routing but the judges only judge you from where the person got hurt and on. If a team member gets hurt during the finals, that person has to lay on the ground, unable to get up before the music will be stopped. The head judge is the only person who can decide if the music should be stopped or not.
In our case, since we tried to help her up and she fought to finish the routine the head judge didn't think her injury would endanger anyone else throughout the rest of our routine. Therefore we didn't get another go. Coach Kim had to go write down everything that was affected by our injury. The judges were not supposed to take of any points for the mistakes and misses due to the injury.
Each person has a vital role when performing stunts and is part of the routine. Injuries are a big part of cheerleading. The unexpected happens all the time. I am so proud of our team for fighting through to the finish. We really came together as a team in the last 45 seconds; everyone did what they could to help the situation. We had quick thinkers and saved the ending pyramid.
Our two main goals that came out of the heart box were to (1) hit our routine perfect and (2) to make it to finals. After the first day we accomplished one of our goals and that was to make it to finals. To accomplish our second goal, all we had to do was hit our routine perfectly in the finals. Unfortunately, we did not succeed. This is nothing to be ashamed of as most of us we haven't competed in 3-to-4 years, and it was our first time at nationals. We made it to the Band Shell (finals) for the first time since 2002, we got fifth place in preliminaries, and we got to enjoy this experience as a family.
We ended up getting seventh but out of 12 teams overall and making it to finals we are satisfied with the results. We all had the experience of a lifetime. Like Coach Kim says, we live and die as a team. We put an amazing end to another great season, walking away as a family with 21 best friends and a million memories that we will last us a lifetime.
Cheerleader Injury Update (April 15, 2010):
Kari Mauck is a sophomore nursing major from Robbinsville, N.C. Unfortunately she blew out her knee mid-way through our routine during our finals performance in Daytona Beach, Fla. The initial diagnosis from the NCA trainers said that it was her ACL, LCL and maybe MCL. However, after returning back to Cullowhee Kari got an MRI and official diagnosis.
The MRI showed a partial tear of the MCL, a complete tear of the ACL, strain on the patella, and a bucket handle tear of the meniscus. Her surgery will be this coming Monday at 2:00. Dr. Supik will be performing the surgery and plans on using part of her patella to replace her ACL as well as fixing her meniscus.
Kari was told that with intense therapy she has a greater than 90% chance of returning to cheerleading and being able to perform the same tumbling passes she previously did. Kari is in good spirits and wants to think all of her teammates and friends that have helped her up stairs, cooked for her, brought her ice, transported her, etc. She would thank athletic trainer, Tom "Tiz" Tisdale, and her coach, Kim Cherry-Beck.
Kari has a long road of recovery ahead of her. But she is a determined hard worker and that won't give up. Our team is behind her 100% of the way and we can't wait to have her back.