Western's co-ed cheerleading team took home their 31st title in 32 years of competition on Saturday at the Power Cheerleading Athletics national championships in Brampton. They won by a massive 45-point margin over second-place Queen's from two rounds of performances.
"It was a killing this year," said Western's confident coach David-Lee Tracey, affectionately known to his team as Coach Trace. "It's the equivalent of a basketball team winning 215–55."
After Western's first routine cheerleader Max Pfeiffer says the entire venue had their eyes on them. Entering the second half of competition with a substantial lead, Tracey allowed his team to loosen up a bit.
"We thought we'd just give the people here a show," said Pfeiffer. "They've already seen it but let's just make it a little more energetic and enthusiastic."
Western's all-female fell just short in their own competition, finishing second to Laurier. They couldn't defend their own championship from a year ago, but they came close, ending up just 16.5 points behind the winners.
At the one-day competition, teams are scored on a variety of criteria. During performances, judges look for the technical difficulty and precision of various tricks used in a routine.
Tracey says that Western's recruitment strategy has been the main driving force behind their success over the years.
"We just recruit really, really well, and the student body supports us really well," he said. "The key to our success is clearly reloading the gun every single year. Unlike hockey, basketball, football, it's not like there's a big well full of cheerleaders that come in. We have to start from scratch every single year."
The coach points out that it's especially important to recruit new cheerleaders for the team's male contingent. Of the 25 men on Western's team, only two had any previous experience with cheerleading.
Many members of the team used to be gymnasts, football players or rugby players, with the physical skill and upper-body strength required to perform the difficult stunts in cheerleading.
The team has an open tryout every September, and from there Tracey is able to determine which athletes will be best suited to learning the specific skills required.
"The next part is just working harder than everybody else," he said. "We train pretty much year-round. We have an excruciatingly aggressive summer training program."
Now that the Canadian competition is over, Western's team will take some time off for exams. When classes resume, though, they'll be back in full training with winter events to prepare for.
The team hasn't yet decided where they'll be competing in the winter, but it's likely to be somewhere in the southern United States. Locations such as Georgia and Texas have been considered, where they'll be able to match up against some of the toughest cheerleading teams in North America.
"Our main goal is always to win nationals," said Pfeiffer, "but after that we always want to go and take on some big names in the cheerleading world, like Kentucky or Alabama or Louisville."
"We'll jump right back into it in January," added Tracey, "and go kick some American ass."