Members of spirit squads, such as the Drake dance and cheerleading teams, are thrilled to once again be performing on the track after spending last year’s football season cooped up on the bleachers due to COVID-19.
“We are ecstatic to be back performing on the track again,” said dance team captain Sydney Skemp, a junior majoring in public relations and advertising. “We have been working so hard gearing up for this football season, and hope to see many fans out there in the stands.”
Cheerleading coach Maddison Grell said that she is excited for her team to be cheering on the track again as well.
“They were all separate and in the stands last year,” Grell said. “So I’m really excited for them to actually be out and have a full football game experience.”
Students are excited too, such as Malik Patterson, a sophomore at Drake majoring in computer science.
“It brings more entertainment to the game, and makes things overall more fun,” Patterson said. “It helps bring the energy to the people. It helps bring the energy to the crowd. I think that’s a valuable thing to have in a game like basketball or football.”
Many of the spirit squad members said that cheering in the bleachers, although better than nothing, was challenging last year.
“It was pretty discouraging,” said junior cheer member Anna Petropoulos, an actuarial science and data analytics major. “We really couldn’t do much, especially because it’s a little bit dangerous trying to move a lot on those [the bleachers].”
Senior cheer member Lauren Vein agreed, recounting the time she fell down three levels of stairs during a football game.
“We all learned to cheer in the stands,” Vein said. “I fell. I was jumping.”
Vein, a public relations and history major, said that despite all the downsides to cheering from the bleachers, she was still grateful for having the opportunity to cheer at all.
“It was what we could do and I was grateful for it,” said Vein.
She said despite the challenges her team faced, they have come out the other side stronger, and more committed to the sport, than ever.
“The group of returners, they’re the strongest girls I know,” Vein said. “To get through that and still be here and excited about the season, I mean, that just tells you how committed they are to the program, to the sport, to the school.”
Petropoulos said to compensate for their lack of movement on the bleachers, the cheer team used a lot of signs and timed motions to get the crowd and players hyped for the game.
But now that they’re allowed back on the track, cheer coach Grell said she’s ready to see her team step it up this year.
“I’m super excited for us to start getting up to some more stunts,” Grell said.
Petropoulos said she, and the rest of the cheerleading team, are ready to meet this challenge.
“I think the most exciting thing is the level of skill we’ve come to,” Petropoulos said.
Skemp said that the dance team is looking forward to performing their quarter break and halftime shows again, as well as possibly gaining sports status this year.
“I really want to focus on getting the team into shape for hopefully gaining sport status and competing in the coming years,” Skemp said. “We were making major headway in the progression of that conversation and COVID has put a halt on making change in status for us.”
Both the dance and cheerleading teams hope to continue their normal cheering into the basketball season, but said they are unsure whether or not the Knapp Center’s indoor setting will allow this to happen.
“We don’t know about the basketball,” Vein said. “We could be in the stands; we could be on the court.”