By Meghan Rowe, Staff Writer

cheerleaders doing stunt

UMF Cheerleading Club at Practice (Photo by Chelsea Lear-Ward)

 The University of Maine Farmington (UMF) Cheerleading Club is looking to establish and make a name for themselves on campus, said this years vice-president and captain, Kris Kelley, who has the intention of building the team from the ground up.

   The Cheerleading Club is a versatile group with a mission statement, “to enhance Beaver spirit and promote Beaver spirit here on campus,” said Kelley. The club is working to appeal to a larger audience. “We’re trying to integrate competition and sideline cheering because some people aren’t interested in both,” said Kelley.“Sometimes people will do one or the other or both–either way it’s great.”

   Kelley became the vice-president of the Cheerleading Club last fall when the previous leader had to leave UMF for health reasons. “This year when we were picking things up from the ground I caught wind of it,” said Kelley. “I ended up, kind of, taking the reins…”.

   Kelley hopes to work on developing skills and setting the groundwork for next year,  as it’s too late in the season to think about competing.  “We want to be very prominent on campus, we want to appear at basketball games, we want to have practices and go to competitions next year,” said Kelley.  “We’re working on building skills for new people for next year.”

   Last years team did not end up attending any competitions.  Typically, much of the season’s practices are spent preparing for competition.  Since the Cheerleading Club at UMF is a club sport it is considered an open level team and therefore must compete against other open level teams, which in Maine is only St. Joseph’s College. Most open level teams that attend competitions are from Massachusetts and Connecticut; generally liberal arts schools from the northeast region.

   “The last few seasons that they [the Cheer-leading Club] competed they went to one competition, however we would like to set the bar high and go to two,” said Kelley. “I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot more effort, and it would cost a lot more.”

   Tricia Robinson, the club’s advisor for the past four years and Assistant Director of the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) has seen the group evolve. “They have established protocol for team members and have become more formal in their practice,” said Robinson. “You can see that the ‘seriousness’ and ‘professionalism’ of the group has grown and they wish to be taken seriously as a club.”

   Although 22 members are permitted on a competition mat at a time, the Cheer-leading Club accepts any individuals who are interested in joining–no audition or experience is required.  “If you’ve cheered before, great, if you haven’t, cool!,” said Kelley.  “We can teach you how to do stuff like back handsprings, back tucks, front handsprings. If you don’t have any experience, we can teach you.  The range of skill varies quite widely.”

   Although this is Kelley’s first season being involved with the team, he reassures his group that cheer-leading is a passion and the desire to succeed is ever present in his role as a leader and captain.

   “It’s been fulfilling to help my peers see their strengths and work on their weaknesses through UMF Cheering…Watching them work to improve … is incredible,” said Kelley.  “As their Captain, it shows me that other people want this as much as I do.”

   Rachel Schoenberg, a sophomore majoring in elementary education, has also been given an outlet through cheer-leading.  “For me, I feel like I have a more positive outlook on things, because you have to be peppy and excited, it’s a requirement!”

   Schoenberg also feels that cheering has given her deeper roots in Farmington.  Not only has it allowed her to meet more people on campus, but also helps her to stay motivated and connected with  her school.  “When I play a sport, I feel like I manage my time better, ” said Schoenberg.

   The Cheer-leading Club is looking for interested individuals regardless of skills and experience.  The club meets on Sundays from 6-8 p.m. and Thursdays from 8-10 p.m. at Decal Gymnastics in Farmington.For any questions regarding the club contact Kris Kelley at kristopher.kelley@maine.edu.