Sixteen athletes are in formation patiently waiting for the music to blast through the speakers. The music starts and Taylor Chuderski is tossed 15 feet in the air, as she flips around in a tucked position.
The formation changes and the athletes quickly hustle to their jump spots, their toes almost at the height of their bright smiles. With nearly two minutes left of the routine, the cheerleaders take a deep breath for what’s about to come.
Although some at Castleton University might not even know they exist, members of the Castleton cheerleading team have been hard at work preparing for their first competition in four years.
Members practice just once a week, yet pack a lot into the sessions to prepare for the event taking place March 24-25 at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Since the athletes only meet for two hours every Sunday, getting ready for competition will be an “obstacle, but a really good challenge, and I feel like we can really do well with it,” said Castleton senior Kyla Leary.
Leary has been on the team all four years and is currently a co-captain. Even though she won't be at Castleton after this year, she has high hopes that the program will still continue to grow.
Annie Cotrupi is a junior on the cheer team and still has two more seasons left to meet her team goals.
“I would say that my goal for our team is to grow and compete at a college level. I would also like to see us become an actual sport at Castleton instead of just a club,” Cotrupi said.
The team is coached by Cara Gauvin, who has led many local teams to victory for almost 24 years. Gauvin describes the dynamic of the team as “competitive, yet still a club sport, so athletes come from all different backgrounds of cheerleading and therefore bring different elements to the team.”
Cheerleaders range from having no experience at all to having cheered since they could walk, so the team has to work together to build a creative routine. A typical practice consists of people being tossed around in the air, feet flipping over heads, and essentially a group of athletes acting like one big family.
“We are working on building competition level skills for a collegiate team as well as putting together our competition routine,” Gauvin said.
As a general consensus of the team, the goal for the competition is to just do well. The team hasn’t gone to a competition since 2013, so putting something on the mat that hits and looks collegiate is what is most important.
“My goal for the competition would be to have the team feel like they got something out of it, that they were successful – not necessarily that they won, but that they went out and put something on the mat that they were proud of,” Gauvin said.