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Hofstra cheerleading wins third straight UCA Nationals crown

By Max Sass, Sports Editor

Winning never gets old. Not the first time, or the second time or even the third time, which the Hofstra University cheerleading team can attest to.

The team won its third straight national championship and fifth in six years on Jan. 15 down in Orlando, Florida.

Hofstra edged out George Mason University and Sacramento State University to win the Universal Cheerleaders Association Small School Coed Division I championship.

"In 2008, we went for three in a row and failed because it's not an easy thing to do," senior Alek Kociski said. "Winning one is hard as it is, winning back-to-back is even harder and winning three in a row, not many teams can do it."

The team has not received the recognition that a varsity sports team would receive. That is because cheerleading is not a varsity sport, but rather considered part of Spirit Support at Hofstra.

"Some people respect us as athletes and as a sport, but [to] the University, we are not," senior Ryan Brown said.

Brown argues that his activity is more than just supporting sports, it's a sport itself.

"If you ask most Division-I athletes to come in here and try to do half the stuff we do, they probably can't," Brown said. "The time and effort that we put in is just as much, if not more, than any other sport is doing. The conditioning, the working out, the awareness of your body that you have to go through to be able to do half these things at a mediocre level is hard, let alone to do it at the level we are at."

The Pride's routine was split into three parts, senior base Angelica Alestra explained. The first part is the most difficult section, consisting of individual stunts, pyramids, tumbling and gymnastics. Then the team moves into the cheer section, which is when it tries to get the crowd involved. Lastly is the team's basket section when it throws people in the air (and catches them).

"I've been coaching here eight years and it's more challenging year after year to come up with new tricks, as you would say, or new skills for the routine," Hofstra head coach Christine Farina said. Farina is assisted by Matt Jones.

Farina and the team's job got even more difficult less than two weeks before Nationals, when Brittany Schoenig tore her achilles tendon and had to be replaced in the routine by Nicole DiSalvo. The team was able to persevere and win despite the late changes.

"It's very difficult to stay on top and to do it with even the new people we had this year," Alestra said. "Everyone stepped up to our [the veteran's] level."

Preparing for the competition was different than it had been in the past for the Pride.

"Being that we didn't have football this year, the workload was a little light because there were no games to cheer for," Kociski said, "but once intersession came around the corner, we were doing two practices a day, about three hours each."

The hard work paid off for the Pride, even though the news may not have been as widespread as the team had hoped. The confidence though, remains with the team as does the motivation to win.

"People are gunning for us," Kociski said. "They say we have this swagger, that we're too overconfident. We do [have swagger] but we go there and we do the same thing every year and we win and people are trying to take us down."

Hofstra cheer has won its third consecutive national title, its fifth in six years. (Photo Courtesy Christine Farina)

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