Days spent in Daytona

Texan Stars and Texan Cheer travel to Daytona for nationals

In the world of collegiate cheer and dance, the National Cheer Association and National Dance Association competition in Daytona Beach, Florida is the biggest competition of the season. At Tarleton State University, our spirit programs have brought home several national titles over the previous years. This season, Texan Cheer and The Texan Stars traveled to Daytona in hopes of adding yet another national title under their belts. 

For Texan Cheer, the journey to Daytona begins in July during camp work week. However, their routine for Daytona starts to take its shape in November. Although their routine may look flawless, the months of practice and preparation are to thank for a difficult, but seemingly effortless routine. Texan Cheer made their Daytona debut back in the early 90’s. The team brought home the award for NCA College Game Day Champions in 2018, which happened to be the inaugural year for that division. Although there are only two opportunities to showcase the routine at Daytona, this routine has been practiced hundreds of times. So, what does the preparation for nationals look like? 

“It’s similar to putting together a clear 1,000 piece puzzle with multiple moving parts and sections. It is literal blood, sweat and tears while they are pushing their bodies to do things they didn’t think would be possible,’’  Coach Blaine Hamilton stated.

Hamilton has eight years of coaching under her belt here at Tarleton. Prior to her time here, Hamilton coached at Temple High School for three years after college. 

“The key to winning a national title is technique. Skills and difficulty are important compared to other teams, but you have to hit a clean routine,’’ Hamilton stated.

While putting in the work is important to make a routine perfect, a big portion of success can be attributed to how the team feels about each other. In a routine of two minutes and 15 seconds, the only way to be flawless is to work and move as one. A connection between teammates is not only essential, but vital for success. 

“My favorite thing about this year’s team is that we are a close group of individuals, we are a family. Whether I have problems in or outside of the gym, I know I will always have someone to talk to and make me feel better,’’ sophomore Payton Twiner, stated. 

This is Twiner’s second season as a member of the Tarleton Cheer team. Twiner has been cheering since she was four years old and it has always been a goal of her’s to be a college cheerleader.  

“Being a cheerleader at Tarleton is a dream come true and being a part of a college athletic program has enhanced my college experience because I have made lifelong friends and I have learned to push myself through things that can be scary. I don’t see my college experience being complete without the Tarleton Cheer Program,’’ Twiner stated.

Alli Roberts

On Apr. 7, the Texan Cheer team took the mat for the preliminary performance which accounted for 25% of their total score. The other 75% of their score came from their final performance on Apr. 8. With only two minutes and 15 seconds on the mat to represent all the hours of effort that have been spent perfecting their routine, as you can imagine, it is a mixture of excitement and nerves. However, Texan Cheer was not the only team on campus feeling these emotions. The Texan Stars are right beside their fellow spirit group as they anticipate the rollercoaster of emotions that are found on the floor at Daytona Beach. 

The Texan Stars also took on the competition stage on April 7 and 8.  For Tarleton Spirit Teams, 2018 was a year full of success. The Stars came home with two national titles, one in Team Performance and the Gameday award which they achieved with the Tarleton Cheer team. Preparation for nationals begins in September for The Stars. The beginning months of practice are spent working on the technique aspect of preparation for the competition. The team learns the choreography in December, then revisits the routine after returning from Christmas break. January is where the intense side of preparation really begins.

Similar to cheer, a key aspect of making a flawless routine is dancing not as individuals, but as one entity. While being precise and intricate is important, to move as one, you have to be one. 

“This year’s team has been close since day one of being together. We pray over each other and constantly motivate each other. Their drive to win and try new skills is unlike any other team I’ve ever had,’’ Coach Elizabeth Walker stated. 

Walker has spent the past three seasons as the coach for The Texan Stars. When you spend months preparing a routine that is performed twice, it is easy to get discouraged during all the hours of hard work required. Keeping in mind the end goal and big picture is the only way to stay motivated. 

“My favorite part about preparing for nationals is actually seeing my vision of the routine come to life right before we leave. The key to winning a national title is confidence and drive. Confidence in your team and dancing, drive to want that national title, and to earn that championship title,’’ Walker stated. 

While having a strong coach is vital to having a successful team and season, the team has to want it just as badly if not more. As in other sports, dance is very physically demanding. Being any type of collegiate athlete is challenging in more than one way. While the actual competitions and games are one side of it, these athletes are also full time students. Not only do they have classes like every other student, they have to balance that responsibility along with practices, workouts, study hall hours, homework, performing at games and making appearances at events for Tarleton, while also trying to have some sort of a social life. Spending long amounts of time with the same people on a regular basis almost guarantees the formation of a bond. 

“I have gained lifelong friends and good connections with Tarleton staff/coaches. I have learned to work with the team and uphold a high standard of a collegiate dance team,’’ junior, Tessa Kelly, stated. Kelly has been a member of The Texan Stars for three seasons now.

The Texan Stars and Texan Cheer teams are vital parts of the spirit on campus. They represent Tarleton in a very positive light and do their part in showcasing what it looks like to embody our core values here at Tarleton. On Apr. 3, both teams brought a large crowd to Wisdom Gym for the preview of their routines for the NCA and NDA competitions. Their performances showcased just how hard they have been working over the past months and they have continued to make Tarleton proud.