HARRISONBURG, Va., Aug. 16, 2013 – The James Madison University cheer squad will make its third consecutive appearance in the National Cheerleading Association Collegiate Championship next spring after earning the highest possible qualifying bid last weekend at the NCA Spirit Camp in Myrtle Beach, S.C. JMU Cheer earned one of nine gold bids handed out at the end of the three-day camp. A program-record five student-athletes earned All-America status.
The Dukes captured the 2012 NCA Championship, but finished second this past April, fueling a determination to return to the top in 2014.
“It started during the preseason, when we determined our goals for the year,” JMU cheerleading coach Kelly Moore said. “The squad wants to prove to the NCA and to JMU that we are still the best team and to show our resiliency with the ability to bounce back. My favorite goal is to be a unified team which nothing can pull apart.”
JMU competed in advanced Large Co-Ed Division I and claimed first place in the “Game Day” category while placing second in the “Rally Routine.” The first two days of camp were set aside for training and the final day was reserved for competition. Scores were determined through votes by camp staffers, competitor polls and judges’ awards.
“There were some mistakes throughout the weekend, but they are things we can learn from,” Moore stated. “How they bounced back is what was most important to me.”
The five who earned All-America recognition were Daniella Baird, Stephanie Carper, Benito Felice, Rebecca Wells and Michaela Paschal. JMU’s lovable mascot, Duke Dog, also earn All-America mascot honors, and the JMU Dukettes won the best all-around dance team competition and a gold bid.
“To become an All-American on the first try is such a wonderful feeling, and I am so proud that we have five All-American titles on our team this year,” Baird said. “It really shows how talented our team is and reflects well on Coach Kelly and her coaching abilities. I’m so thankful to have had the help from my teammates and Coach Kelly to gain this title, because without them I would not have been able to reach this goal.”
Moore explained the benefits of being a competitive cheerleader, going beyond merely being on the sideline or courtside to cheer for the Dukes.
“You get that nervous feeling, there’s just something about stepping onto the blue (competition) court,” Moore says. “All the hard work, the bumps and the bruises are worth it when it comes to that moment. We were motivated to compete with our peers, adding to the excitement factor, cheering for ourselves to win.”
“Although we love performing for our Dukes and supporting our fellow athletes, being a part of the competition team gives us our own goals and is what we truly have a passion for,” Wells exclaimed. “Just like any other sport, the feeling of a being in a competition setting becomes addictive. Being able to represent JMU at NCA camp and the NCA National Championship each year is such an honor and knowing that we have the support of the Dukes and all their fans makes cheering that much more enjoyable for us all.”
“My favorite thing about competitions is the feeling of putting on my uniform and representing such a prestigious university because it is such an honor to have been chosen to be on such a talented team,” Baird added.
From the standpoint of JMU Athletics, the better the cheerleaders become through competition, the better the experience for each as an individual student-athlete and the better the game-day atmosphere and experience for JMU fans.
“I definitely felt a heightened sense of determination this year to receive a gold paid bid,” Wells noted. “Our second-place finish at nationals last year is something that our new team refuses to settle for again. This team definitely used the disappointment from last year's upset to fuel the fire for success this weekend.”