Cheerleading team lifts itself to success

The Geneseo cheerleading team has reason to be proud.

After losing its coach at the end of last year, the squad has continued to flourish in both participation and talent throughout the 2009-2010 academic year. Twenty six women traveled to four competitions this season, placing in the top three spots each time.

Despite these accomplishments, the transition was not always an easy one.

"This is the first year we've been completely student run," said senior Jena Coutlakis, captain and acting coach of the cheerleading team, in an e-mail. She explained that after a great amount of deliberation at the end of last season, the team decided not to hire a new coach, as it "had the potential to cause a lot of problems; Since we were all used to the way that things had been run, a new coach could have changed that."

"It's completely different," said junior Caitlin Hesketh, co-captain. "It's so difficult because cheerleading is a sport where you're expected to do so much in so little time … it required a lot of extra outside time that we really didn't have."

The lack of an outside coach isn't the only obstacle the women overcame. Freshman Jessica Zon cited not being a recognized varsity sport as one of the major setbacks for the team. "We have to do all of the funding on our own, which is a lot, and we don't have access to certain things, or have transportation for competitions, or gym space," she said.

The team has been trying to gain recognition as a varsity sport for several years now. Attempts to do so have been complicated by Title IX regulations which restrict the recognition of new varsity women's sports; they can only be recognized in conjunction with new varsity men's sports. The team's last attempt was denied when the women's equestrian team earned varsity recognition instead.

These setbacks never shut out their spirit, though. Over the course of their season, the cheerleaders traveled to Maryland, Ohio, Buffalo and Syracuse for competitions.

"I'm very proud of the final product," Coutlakis said. "This year we have had, by far, more talent than any other year I have cheered. We're also graduating seven seniors, which is our biggest class in the last five years."

As a senior, Coutlakis said she hopes the program continues to "go forward and be more successful," which is a goal Hesketh has as well, as she'll be continuing to help run the squad next year.

"The interest is always there," Hesketh said. "Despite the money and resources we don't have, we've still been competitive."

"As a club sport, we've faced some adversity in the past and I hope that next year is smooth with the school itself so Geneseo cheerleading can continue to be successful and competitive against other Division-III all-girls college teams," Coutlakis said.

Past seasons have shown that the team shows no sign of slowing down; the women will continue cheering at both men's and women's basketball games next season, and plan to participate in several competitions.

Anyone who is interested in trying out for the squad next year is encouraged to e-mail for more information.