“They see pom-poms. They see cute little skirts. They see us standing on the sidelines, representing that first half of the sport, but they miss what it takes to put on a routine. We have to have the strength of weight-lifters, the speed of runners, the quick twitch of a gymnast. We have to be the full package,” Michelle McCarty – SNHU Cheer Coach

On April 5, 2019, the SNHU Cheer Team reached new heights by finishing fourth in the NCA National Cheer Championships in Daytona Beach, FL.

The team advanced to the finals after capturing both the Advanced All-Girl Division II crown at the New England Cheer Association Collegiate Championships for the second consecutive year and the Collegiate Grand Champion title.

In awe of the team’s determination and immense focus, Head Coach Michelle McCarty was overjoyed not only with the results of finals but with the course of the season as well.

“From tryouts until now, there is not one complaint I have,” McCarty said, “If I could go back and design a season, this would be what I would want to create.”

McCarty began with SNHU Cheer in 2011, when it was offered at just a club sport level. Through the years, the program’s focus shifted drastically from club sport, to what McCarty refers to as the “serious machine” that it is today.

McCarty mentioned the caliber of athletes coming into the cheer program has been a large part of the team’s improvement, especially during recent years. Leadership roles and captains on the team have also helped to set the bar high for upcoming athletes.

“They understand that this is what we’re here to do. They just jump in the canoe and row it,” McCarty said in reference to the cheer athletes.

The team’s improvement was evident when they arrived at the University of Rhode Island to compete in regionals, where their physical and mental barriers were tested. The cold conditions of the ice hockey rink and the limited time allotted for warming up were enough to crack any athlete, no matter how experienced.

However, the team’s intensity and excitement prevailed as they tackled the challenges in front of them, securing their spot in the national competition in Daytona Beach.

“I thought, ‘there’s no way they’re going to be able to tumble head over heels in these circumstances,’” McCarty said, “But they proved they were tough and able to do it; it meant the world to me.

The intensity of their regional performance carried over to Daytona, where the Penmen were more prepared than ever to be fierce competitors against other universities. As they prepared for the preliminary round on Thursday, April 4, the pressure was high as they took the floor in conditions even more intimidating than their regional competition.

“Year after year, I’ve seen athletes crumble under the pressure,” McCarty said, “But this team hit their routine, and it was really a first for SNHU cheer. They had done almost the impossible.”

Advancing to finals after scoring a program high score of 92.3667 made the team feel ready to take on anything. The finals were held on Friday, April 5, when SNHU broke records by finishing fourth in the nation.

McCarty refers to the team as the “ambassadors of the school” and the “little engine that could,” stating that their ‘anything-can-happen’ mindset never failed over the course of the season and intense finals. The team broke mental and physical barriers presented to them, both in front of roaring crowds and behind the scenes.