New coach has high expectations for 2016-2017 cheerleading team

By Sara Agans
Staff Writer

 The 2016-2017 UWF cheerleading team had tryouts and was announced April 9. Photos courtesy of Kathleen Mills.

The 2016-2017 UWF cheerleading team had tryouts and was announced April 9.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Mills.

Tryouts for the 2016-2017 UWF cheerleading team, which were held on Saturday, April 9, involved a lot of hard work, dedication, and even tumbling and flying.

Kathleen Mills, head cheer coach, said she had high expectations for tryouts this year because the women had already done well in the clinic. Mills said they were at the same level, if not better, than the past team was when she came to UWF last fall.

“I’m expecting this to be a much better team right off the bat than UWF has probably seen before, which is pretty exciting,” Mills said.

“I expected there to be a wide variety of talent,” said Mallory Webb, a judge at the tryouts and a former cheerleader for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I did expect Kathleen would find the individuals she was looking for to represent the university. I love getting to see all the talent that comes in to the school each year. It also brings back bittersweet memories of when I went through the process myself.”

Kaylee Scott, a UWF junior majoring in pre-med and a returning UWF cheerleader, said, “Before tryouts, my expectations were that this team can only get better from here. Our previous team had already come so far from where we started. I knew we had a long way to go, but we were getting there with time.”

Many factors came into play for the judges when selecting the team members. “We first went through all the scores to see who had the highest raw scores,” Webb said. “We also had to go through and make sure there was a good ratio of top girls, bases, backspots, and guys. You can’t have a team with all top girls or all bases. Someone has to be at the top of the pyramid just like someone has to hold it up. We also took tumbling, grades and overall appeal into consideration when making a final decision.”

“After hearing what the coach is expecting for next year and knowing what it takes to accomplish the coach’s goals, I made my final decision based on who has the overall package,” said LaToya Williams, head cheer coach at the University of Montevallo, a former cheerleader for the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a judge at tryouts. “Grades, skills, versatility, attitude and drive to succeed.”

cheer leaders

The 2016-2017 UWF cheerleading team had tryouts and was announced April 9.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Mills.

Along with the cheerleading tryouts, warm-up stunts with groups, and standing and running tumbling warm-ups, there were also mascot tryouts for the next Argie.

“The way the mascot tryouts are going to work this year is that they are going to be more laid-back,” Mills said. “I have a couple people trying out for it, so while the girls are warming up and doing their dances and everything, we’ll have each mascot got through and interact with the cheerleaders so that we can see how Argie is going to interact with people.”

A new Argie was selected and the team is still in search of two more candidates for the position.

A lot of people think it is an all-female team, Mills said, but the tryouts were for both male and female, as in previous years. This year they had several men try out and make the team, so the team will be co-ed this upcoming year.

Scott described this year’s tryouts as being very organized. “Kathleen had everything set up like it should have been from the very beginning. Prior to tryouts our team hosted a college prep clinic where any potential people who wanted to try out came and attended the clinic to learn what our team is all about. It was a great turnout and very beneficial to those who had come and tried out because everything we taught from a dance and stunts was used in tryouts.”

“Kathleen and the judges made it a comfortable environment throughout the entire tryout, which was very appreciated,” Scott said. “Since the atmosphere was not as intense at tryouts, everyone was helping and encouraging each other. Don’t get me wrong, though; everyone was still nervous.”

“After judging UWF tryouts, I witnessed a lot of the new members show determination and excitement,” Williams said. “I hope they use that to be the best they can throughout the year and grow together as a team.”

Mills said the team will be more involved in the community and the university events next year. “People that have never seen us before will definitely see us at something, whereas we haven’t done too much in the past, so that’s exciting,” Mills said.

Scott said a lot of things have changed since the last year. “Our team received a new coach. Before Kathleen became our new coach, we did not have a coach, and our team was patiently waiting for one. We were not going to all the events on campus and we almost felt like the cheerleaders were not wanted. A lot of things were unorganized and not up to college-level expectations.”

“Since Kathleen has taken over the team, we have been introduced to endless possibilities. We get invited to all the events on campus, people know that there is a cheer team here at UWF and we perform at college level.”

The team usually cheers at basketball games, some volleyball games, and at least one soccer game, Mills said. With the inaugural football season fast approaching, the cheerleaders will now also be cheering at all the home games, which will definitely be something new for them.

The evening of tryouts, the names of the students who made the team were released through Mills’ Facebook and Instagram page. The team consists of: Shelbie Andrews, Emalee Bush, Taylor Carrington, Zach Devore, Alexis Downs, Faith Doyle, Collin Edwards, David Franklin, Ashlyn Howell, Abbie Huff, Kirsten Hunt, Alexia Kenney, Nicole Morrill, Rachel Neal, Dewanna Norton, Kennedy Porter, Kendal Rosebrock, Kaylee Scott, Rebecca Slattery, Ashley Stefka, Crystal Thompson, Shaina Thompson, Marissa Walker and Alex Wallerstein.

Their first practice as a new team was held on Sunday, April 10, in the Pedagogy Gym. “I think UWF has potential to be a great team,” Webb said. “I hope to see the program grow because I know they have a great leader in Kathleen.”

“The new 2016-2017 UWF cheerleading team has incredible talent,” Scott said. “I know as a returning cheerleader, it makes me happy to see how far this cheer program has gone and how it continues to keep building. Kathleen as a coach and the new additions to the team are going to take UWF cheer to a whole other level. There is amazing potential throughout the team this year, so I am very excited. Go Argos!”