The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa cheerleading team competes in the Universal Cheerleaders Association Collegiate National Championships in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 14–16, 2011. The competition will air on ESPN several times during February 2011.
As repeat winner of November’s western regional, the squad advances directly to the finals and receives a full paid bid, including airfare within the continental United States, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, entry fees and four-day park passes to Disneyworld, which hosts the event.
Collegiate teams from across the country submit qualification videos, which include both a cheer performance and skills exhibition. Hawaiʻi bested western schools including Washington, Texas and UTEP.
Head Coach Mike Baker attributes the team’s success to a “a very disciplined squad that is working hard to keep improving every day.” Last year’s team, though young, finished eighth in the competition. All but two graduating seniors returned, building on the solid foundation created by last year’s focus on fundamentals, he says.
“This year, we spent more time and challenged ourselves to improve our traditional cheer portion of the tape by putting more difficulty into our routine. The team came through and nailed it,” Baker says. “We’re really proud of this year’s video, it is the best qualification tape that we’ve done in probably four.”
The 19-member team hails from across the country, from Līhuʻe (4-11 sophomore Dawn Vess) and Wailuku (4-11 junior Niki Fernandez) to Horseheads, N.Y., (5-2 freshman Amanda Bartsch) and Hughesville, Md., (5-8 senior Kyle Thalman).
Seven members are from Washington State, including the smallest (4-8 Korea-born senior Liz Hamann, who is interested in sports medicine) and tallest (6-3 senior chemistry major David Gilles). Eliza Moreno adds international flavor; the 4-9 British Columbia native was named to the Vancouver All-Star Cheer Squad.
Some members have lettered in multiple sports (6-1 junior accounting major Matthew Wilson, in soccer, track and football in Georgia) or multiple years (5-11 Arizona senior Leon Kim in volleyball and 6-0 Washington sophomore Jeremy Sage in baseball).
Junior David Morgan, a 6-1 high school All-American from North Carolina, was a National Honor Society member. 6-0 George McGuire is a graduate student and 5-9 junior Adam Yaw is working on a master’s in fine arts.
Also on the team are juniors Jeremy Dacanay of Olympia, Wash., Leeann Nguyen of San Diego and Billy Stuckman of Prescott, Ariz.; sophomores Jamie Mehmet of Lake Oswego, Ore., and Cynnamon Redd of Loma, Colo.; and freshman Darik Alexander of Sammamish, Wash.