9:46 a.m., Jan. 22, 2010----The University of Delaware dance, cheerleading and mascot teams turned in award-winning performances at the 2010 United Cheerleading Association and Universal Dance Association national championships, held Jan. 15-18 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
YoUDee, a Mascot Hall of Fame member and defending national champion, took second place in the open mascot finals.
Performances and results of the mascot, dance and cheerleading team competitions can be found at the Varsity.com Web site.
UD dance team
The UD dance team won its second consecutive first place award in the hip hop competition, and its third title in the genre's seven-year history.
Pamela Leary, a senior communication major from Newtown, Pa., and a three-year veteran, said coming back to campus with another first place trophy was on the minds of everybody on the dance team.
“Hip hop has not been around as long as the jazz category and after winning it last year, we really wanted to make it two years in a row,” Leary said. “We try to pick a song that is familiar to the judges and the fans, and this year we chose 'Bad Boys for Life' by P. Diddy.”
Getting ready for the two-minute performance, the 14 members who were on stage created a circle to get comfortable while adding a visual complement to the music, Leary said.
“Each dancer has her own place, and we usually do 13 formations, something which energizes our performance and keeps it from seeming flat,” Leary said. “We knew second place is still very good but we really wanted to show that that we were the best, and we did. A lot of teams came up and complimented us on our performance.”
The dance team also proved that it has a diverse repertoire by taking third in the jazz competition this year.
“We put a lot of time into all our routines,” Leary said. “We are versatile and taking third in the jazz competition proved this.”
Marissa Lewis, a freshman University studies student from East Brunswick, N.J., said it is hard to believe that a routine that took months to prepare goes by so quickly in a two-minute performance.
“It was like a blur,” Lewis said. “I was nervous but all the girls were there and we calmed each other down.”
Aside from practice and performance, Lewis said team members just enjoyed spending time with each other.
“You really have to know what the other people on stage are doing during a performance,” Lewis said. “By spending time with your teammates offstage, you get a better feel for what they will be doing during the competition.”
In her sixth year as head coach of the dance team, Nicole Daliessio-Zehnder said that watching the team perform during competition borders on the surreal, with members and coaches asking, “Did we really dance it already?”
“After preparing for so many months, it is really rewarding to know that dedication and hard work equals success,” Daliessio said. “We began in July, going to a camp that runs the national competition and we won that camp. Then we have football games and had to send in a video for the national competition. We took first place in that, too.”
For high school and college students interested in becoming a member of the UD dance team, a college preparatory clinic will be held Feb. 21, in the Carpenter Sports Building, and auditions are slated for April 17-18. For more information, visit the dance team Web site.
Benjamin Schreiber, first-year head coach of the UD cheerleading team, said that the team came together and performed well against a group of highly competitive rivals.
“We're getting closer as a team,” Schreiber said. “We are excited to work the rest of the basketball season and then to take a break and plan for the future.”
Michael Martinez, a sophomore quantitative biology major from Saddle Brook, N.J., said that the skills required as a member of the UD cheerleading team are different than those associated with the sports he played in high school.
“I played football, wrestling and baseball in high school, but this is different,” Martinez said. “A friend of mine made the team, and I became interested. I came to the trials and made the team, as well.”
Samantha Wilkes, a junior leadership major from Randolph, N.J., and a three-year team member, said experience helps to deal with what can be an overwhelming experience for first time competitors at the national level.
“We know we need to practice right up until the day of the competition and that there are certain things we need to do,” Wilkes said. “I felt that this year's time was a lot closer and that finishing second gives us the drive to improve and push a little more to come back with a national championship next year.”
YoUDee mascot team
While the mascot performance in competition at the national level lasts just about 90 seconds, each skit and prop represents countless hours of preparation in getting things just right, said Kenneth Siebold, a freshman sports marketing major from Newark, Del.
“It was a lot of work to prepare for it, but it paid off in the end,” Siebold, a first-time nationals participant, said. “Designing and building the props is tedious, and for the newer members of the team, it involves a lot of grunt work, but it's also a lot of fun.”
Chavez Eaton, a sophomore computer science major from Felton, Del., and first-time mascot team visitor to Disney World, described the performance as phenomenal. “It was my first time flying and going to Disney World,” he said. “The hard work paid off and I certainly would do it again. I also liked hearing students from other schools say how much they respected all of our spirit teams.”
Andrew Macleary, junior accounting and international business major from Wilmington, said returning to the nationals as a veteran made it somewhat a less-intimidating and more enjoyable experience.
“I went last year, but going this year was even better, because I knew what we had to do,” Macleary said. “This year the skits were better and the bar was raised for all of us.”
Kevin Di Girolamo, a junior organizational and community leadership major from Hockessin and returning mascot team member, said, “Once you know what it's like at the competition, it makes it better.”
He added, “We enjoyed watching the other teams compete and even though we finished second, we enjoyed it as much as if we had finished first.”
Lisa Easton, a junior animal sciences major from Chevy Chase, Md., and three-year veteran of the national competition, said the individual members really seemed to come together as a team this year.
“Everyone worked really hard to get there,” Easton said. “Although it takes hundreds of hours of preparation for a minute-and-a-half-performance, it's still great, and when it's over, the team has relaxes and has fun watching other teams and just enjoying Disney World.”
Chad Mills, a junior biology major from Bear, Del., also said that returning members have a better idea of what needs to be done and that it's great to follow a project through, from an original idea to the final performance at the competition.
“The prop designs all start with a concept and then they work their way up from there,” Mills said. “Sometimes a prop that we use in the performance begins a part of the original skit and it changes as season continues.”
Brendan Coughlan, an Honors Program student and junior history education major from Wilmington, said that there is a spirit of respect and community among team members and competing squads from other schools.
“The people on your team become a second family to you,” Coughlan said. “With other teams, we are not friendly until after the competition but every time I leave the nationals, I make friends that I would not have met otherwise.”
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Mark Campell and Evan Krape