YoUDee, dance team win national titles
The YoUDee mascot team celebrates the 2009 national championship. Photo by Ambre Alexander
UD's dance team with the championship trophy won for their hip hop performance. Photo by Duane Perry
UD cheerleaders Jon Lee, Hayley Fletcher, Ben Schreiber and Gillian Guadagnino. Photo by Duane Perry
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12:38 p.m., Jan. 23, 2009----The University of Delaware's sprit teams - mascot, dance team and cheerleaders -- continued a proud tradition of excellence by taking top prizes during the 2009 United Cheerleading Association and Universal Dance Association National Championships, held Jan. 16-19 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

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Mascot Hall of Fame member and longtime fan favorite YoUDee, which has a brand new Web site, turned in a first-place performance in the open mascot division.

The UD dance team took first place in the hip hop contest and ninth place in the jazz competition.

The UD cheerleaders finished second overall as a team, while pairs competitors Jon Lee and Lauren Greco took second place and Ben Schreiber and Gillian Guadagnino took seventh place in the partner stunt competition.

Performances of the mascot, dance and cheerleading teams can be found at the Web site. To find the mascot performance, enter YoUDee in the search box. To find the dance and cheerleading performances, enter Delaware.

YoUDee mascot team

“It was a great environment at the nationals,” Bart Piegdon, senior exercise science major and member of the mascot team, said.

Mascots had to perform a skit. “Our event was about time travel. We went back to the Stone Age, then to the future and ended up in the 1950s,” Piegdon said. “There was a joke in each routine, and we worked to get the crowd involved.”

Despite the rather complicated nature of this year's routine, Piegdon said, all the effort, which included many cold practice sessions in the mascot garage, or “dream factory,” was worth it.

“Winning was icing on the cake,” Piedgon said. “We started off the weekend with a win and then we had the whole weekend to have fun.”

Putting on a prize-winning competition requires a hefty contribution of time and energy from each person on the seven-member team, including Becky Cox, a senior leadership major and team manager.

“Although I don't get in costume, I do everything else, from paperwork to seeing that the costumes are ready to go,” Cox said. “It's exciting to be a part of all of this.”

Chad Mills, a sophomore biology major, who tried out for the mascot team during the spring semester of his freshman year, said that “while this does consume a lot of my life, it is time well spent.”

Like several of his teammates, sophomore history education major Brendan Coughlan signed up for the team during Student Activities Night at the start of the fall semester. “This is my second year,” Coughlan said. “It has really been interesting, especially going to Disney World.”

Kevin DiGirolamo, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said the size of the mascot team just seems to work out well.

“The group size of seven members is perfect, not too many and not too few,” DiGirolamo said. “I really like performing, especially for the children. It's great getting in costume and making people laugh. We help to brighten up their day.”

Lisa Easton, a sophomore animal science major, said she enjoys entertaining an audience, making them laugh and helping her teammates.

Andrew Macleary, a sophomore accounting/international business major, said “Just being together is great. It's something I will always remember.”

First appearing on the University campus in 1993, YoUDee joined the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006, along with Clutch the Bear of the NBA's Houston Rockets, made famous by former YoUDee Bob Boudwin, BE '97, who was the first UD student to appear as YoUDee.

Other former YoUDees who are now professional mascots include Ryan Hughes, BE '99, who is the Philadelphia Eagles' Swoop; Christopher Bruce, BE '02, who is Reggie of Raymond Entertainment Group and one of the NCAA's J.J. Jumpers; Brandon "Summy" Willliams, AS '03, who is the Baltimore Ravens' mascot Poe; Frank Ventresca, BE '04, who is the Philadelphia Eagles' AirSwoop; Nicholas Tennant, BE '07, who is the Durham, N.C., Bulls' Wool E.; Kevin Giambi, CHEP '08, who is the Washington Capitals' Slapshot; and Corey Inganamort, BE '08, who is the Washington Nationals' Screech.

The UD mascot program is coordinated by Sharon Harris, assistant director in UD's Office of Communications & Marketing.

UD dance team

Coached by Nicole Daliesso-Zehnder, the dance team is led by co-captains Pamela Leary, Danielle Napolione and Nicole Gentile.

“Competing in the nationals and seeing how good all the other teams were was really exciting," said Leary, a senior interpersonal communications major. “It get's a bit stressful. We did a great job of pulling together and concentrating on our goals.”

Napolione, a senior exercise physiology major and four-year veteran of the dance team, said it has been exciting to see how the team has grown over the years on the way to winning the national hip hop competition this year.

“Hip hop is really fun to do, and we tried to convey that to the audience,” Napolione said. “We mixed old and new songs, something the other teams didn't do, and you could tell that the audience really loved that.”

Gentile, a senior international relations major and four-year dance team member, said that knowing it was her last opportunity to represent the University of Delaware made winning that much more enjoyable.

“When we got there, we knew that we were happy with our routine, and we were happy with ourselves,” Gentile said. “Winning the top prize was everything that we could ask for.”

UD cheerleaders

The UD cheerleading team, under coach Andy Brown, turned in a close second-place finish, just missing first place by three points in a 500-point competition.

“We had a lot of high expectations and as a squad we came together,” said Ben Schreiber, a graduate student in higher education administration. “As a team, our routine was nearly flawless.”

Jon Lee, a senior health and physical education major, said that finishing in the top 10 in a national competition represents a lot of hard work on the part of teammates and coaching staff.

“During the month before the nationals, we practice as pairs for at least an hour a day,” Lee said. “We also do strength training four to five days a week."

Senior English education major Gillian Guadagnino said that the pairs competitors have one minute to present their routines, during which time they try to do as many different body positions and power stunts as possible.

“We always have high expectations, and we were able to perform our opening stunt well,” Guadagnino said. “You're always trying to push yourself to do better.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes