Hope College has a tradition of successful athletic teams, and the cheerleaders are no exception. In 1996, and again in 1998, the cheerleaders were in Salem, Virginia cheering on the men's basketball team as they competed for the NCAA Division III national championship.
Now, for the first time, the Hope College cheerleaders are getting the opportunity to show their skills and compete at the college cheerleading national championships.
For the last six years the cheerleaders have participated in the largest cheerleading summer camp in the country in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA). In addition to perfecting technique and bonding as a team before the season, this camp gave the Hope cheerleaders the opportunity to compete with other squads, mainly from NCAA Division II universities. Hope fared well in these summer competitions, placing in at least one category each camp, often against much larger schools, some offering scholarships.
After a successful camp experience in August of this year, resulting in a second place finish in the Fight Song competition, the Hope cheerleaders started dreaming bigger, much bigger. Led by senior tri-captains, Camy Clift of Bellevue, Beth Evans, of Winfield, Ill., and Brooke Wever of Fremont, the cheerleaders decided to attempt to qualify for the nationally televised UCA college cheerleading national championship, held at Disney World in Orlando, Florida in January.
This was the first time a Hope squad had ever seriously considered such an undertaking. It would mean plenty of extra work in an already busy academic schedule, and there was no guarantee they would qualify. Even if they did qualify, being that financial budgets had already been established for the year, there was no guarantee they would be able to acquire the funding to make it to Orlando.
In spite of the obstacles, this squad consisting of six men and 10 women decided it was worth the effort and everyone made the commitment to give it their best effort. Coaches Wes Wooley and Kris Ritton enlisted the help of 1996 Hope graduate and former cheerleader Dave Muir, who after graduating from Hope, cheered with the University of Michigan while he completed his graduate degree. His experience competing with Michigan at nationals would be a valuable resource for Hope's squad.
Practicing harder than they ever had before, every weekday for two to three hours, this talented squad led by a motivated group of seniors prepared a video tape entry for the competition. Several weeks later they received notification that Hope had received an invitation bid to compete in the semi-finals and was pre-ranked 9th from a field of 13 in the Division II competition. For their first attempt, the coaches were very pleased with these results. Not every team qualifies for the semi-finals. Some entrants must first compete in a preliminary round.
The obstacle of qualifying was overcome, now it would be necessary to raise the money to send 16 cheerleaders and their coaches to Orlando. Since this trip was not planned the previous year when budgets were established, no money was readily available. Hope administrators generously decided to treat this opportunity similar to a overseas opportunities provided other student organizations and athletic teams and committed to funding one third of the nearly twelve thousand dollars required for airfare and hotel accommodations. The rest was up to the cheerleaders and they first turned to Hope cheerleading alumni for donations. As the donations continue to be made, the fund-raising effort is on-going, including selling Hope basketball buttons at the basketball games and soliciting corporate sponsorship. Although a substantial amount, the cheerleaders are steadily approaching their goal.
As the end of the semester approaches, the squad is working on their routine, polishing partner stunts, perfecting pyramids, and practicing their tumbling. They will practice most of Christmas break, sacrificing time with family to make this dream a reality. They leave for Orlando on January 10 for the competition on January 11. Their goal is to perform a clean routine and make it to the finals which will be televised later on ESPN and ESPN 2 throughout the year. Their dream would be a top five finish, but whatever the outcome, this experience will definitely be one each individual will cherish in the future, pushing themselves beyond their limits and working as a team to be the first to try something most thought could never be done.
2001-02 Basketball Cheerleading Squad
Meredith Albers (sophomore from Hamilton/Hamilton HS)
Josh Brandenburg (junior from Mt. Vernon, Ohio/Mt. Vernon HS)
Bethany Buege (senior from Evart/Evart HS)
Jason Cain (senior from Arcadia/Onekema HS)
Camy Clift (senior from Belleview/Belleview HS)
Beth Evans (senior from Winfield, Ill./West Chicago HS)
Ashley Farr (freshman from Jenison/Jenison HS)
Tony Frucci (junior from Plainwell/Plainwell HS)
Betsie Jetter (sophomore from Greenville, Ohio/Greenville HS)
Nick Kunnen (senior from Muskegon/Reeths-Puffer HS)
Carmen Nee (freshman from Kalamazoo/Kalamazoo Christian HS)
Ashleigh Sartor (freshman from Plymouth/Plymouth Canton HS)
Kristin Sheehan (junior from Lansing/Holt HS)
Russell Smith (freshman from Bad Axe/Bad Axe)
Melissa Snyder (sophomore from Mishawaka, Ind./Penn HS)
Sarah Stowell (freshman from Lake Odessa/Lakewood HS)
Curtis Tyler (junior from Charlotte/Charlotte HS)
Brooke Wever (senior from Fremont/Fremont HS)