McMaster’s cheerleading squad changed its composition this season and has seen immediate returns on that decision.
On Dec. 3, the Maroon and Grey representatives topped the University Small Co-Ed division of the National and Open Championships, surpassing the other four members of the field.
Team member Janelle Smith believes that her team was confident of their chances at the event, as they are perennial powerhouses within the nation’s cheerleading ranks. The move to a co-ed team from the Marauders traditional all-girl competitive make-up also placed them in a smaller field.
“Truthfully, I don’t think we were all that surprised to win,” said Smith of the December event. “We don’t usually compete in the small co-ed division because we’re usually an all-girl team. The last time we were co-ed was three years ago, but this time around we decided to take a few guys along as well.
“We’ve always been a very strong team – even when we were an all-girl team – and the boys only made us stronger. We understand that there’s a good level of competition but we’re confident and we’ve got an incredible coach.”
Smith explains that the transition to a co-ed team allowed the Marauder cheerleaders more flexibility in their selection of routine pieces, an advantage the team used to full effect in competition.
“It matters most in terms of stunts, particularly the number that we’re allowed to have,” said the fourth-year senior. “We’re able to have more if boys are able to be under a stunt by themselves. The same goes for pyramids. We’re able to do more and vary our stunts more.”
In the wake of their national success, the Maroon and Grey received a unique opportunity: the chance to take part in the Universal Cheerleading Association’s World College Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, FL. The Jan. 15 event saw McMaster’s delegation compete against representatives from Asia and the United States.
“There were teams from Puerto Rico, China and a few US teams,” said Smith of the field in Orlando. “UCA was in their first year of running the World division, so it was quite a bit smaller but still a fantastic competition, and they put it on well.”
Not only was the competition located in Orlando, it was actually staged at Disney World, allowing the team a vacation of sorts alongside the event itself. The trip represented an unusually exotic move for a Marauder squad that typically stays closer to home due to funding challenges.
“It was a great experience being at Disney World,” said Smith of the Florida competition. “It came to us very last minute but our coach was thankfully able to pull some strings. When we got the opportunity, we jumped at it.
“We usually travel to two US competitions in the second semester. Usually they’re fairly close in places like Pittsburgh or New York. A few years ago the team went to Myrtle Beach, but getting the opportunity to go to Disney World was pretty intense. A lot depends on what we can afford.”
Beyond their competitive schedule, the Marauder cheerleaders take an active role in charity work with the help of the Mac Athletes Care organization. Smith indicates that such activities are a conscious part of the team’s effort to diversify their operations.
“We have one member in particular – Lauren Hurst – who is part of the Mac Athletes Care program, and she’s sort of our liaison between the team and the charities. Each week she posts and tries to get the team involved.
“We always want to present the image of a well-rounded team that is interested in the wider Hamilton community.”
The Marauders will continue to demonstrate that balanced approach as they compete at the Cheer Evolution Nationals in Kingston and the Kicks Championship in Montreal while maintaining extra-curricular charity events.