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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Cheerleaders earn respect one game at a time

By Nancy Blanton
Sul Ross State University

News Writer

This season, Sul Ross State University cheerleaders earned respect one game at a time.

Defying sometimes-negative stereotypes, the Sul Ross cheerleaders demonstrated that their qualifications extend well beyond a champagne personality and a pretty smile. The real qualifications lie in maturity, discipline, dedication and conviction in the significance in what they are doing, as much as any athlete on a sports team.

The Sul Ross cheerleader squad is captained by Michelle Rueda, sophomore, El Paso; and consists of Jessica Orozco, freshman, San Elizario; Stephanie Estrada, freshman, Monahans; Nanca Rodriguez, freshman, Del Rio; April Gougler, sophomore Lago Vista; Johnny Ybarra, junior, Alpine; Delma (DeeDee) Molinar, sophomore, Pecos; Tiffany Niemann, senior, Odessa; Jennifer Velazquez, junior, Alpine, and Crystalyn Nations, freshman, Harper.

Leading cheers throughout the games only touches the surface. The squad spends hours throughout the week critiquing and coaching each other on their form in practice sessions every afternoon.

"Cheerleading requires a lot of different abilities," said Estrada, and the others cheerleaders nodded in agreement. "Some of it is acrobatics, dance, athleticism and performance. It's all of those things." All the cheerleaders expressed that cheerleading, rather than being a stressor or a distraction from their college studies, actually servers as a constructive activity that builds teamwork and comradeship among them.

"There is a friendly competition that goes on between us," Estrada said.

"But, we are all supportive," added Orozco, "A big family. What is really neat is that in most other circumstances none of us would probably ever get to know each other. Cheerleading has done that for us."

There is no off-season for the cheerleaders. Since the beginning of basketball season in November, they have been at the all the games, linking the support and encouragement from the fans to the players while providing entertainment and enthusiasm throughout the both men's and women's games. Prior to basketball season, they did the same at the fall football games, and will continue to appear at the Lobo baseball games throughout the spring.

During the summer, many squad members either teach at cheerleading camp or attend such camps to improve their timing, skills and routines. Within the next year, Rueda, as the captain, plans to take the squad into competition at cheerleading contests.

When not working on perfecting their cheers, squad members choreograph and rehearse their own dance routines and keep in shape by working out in aerobics and weight-training rooms, often rising early in the morning to get to the gym for 6 a.m. workouts. In addition, like professional cheerleading squads, to generate interest and recognition for the university, cheerleaders work hard as promoters and representatives of Sul Ross. They are involved in meeting prospective students at events, such as Super Lobo Saturday or the upcoming Relay for Life sponsored by the American Cancer Socitey.

The squad is supported by funds from the university, but they also raise money for travel and hotels through concession sales. Most evenings, squad members take turns at the Graves-Pierce Recreational Sports Center, selling concessions at student intramural basketball games as a supplement their funding.

When the Lobo men's basketball team won the ASC West Division championship on Feb. 22 in the Pete P. Gallego Center the Sul Ross cheerleaders won a victory, too. Their payoff was the opportunity to cheer at the conference tournament at East Texas Baptist University, Marshall.

"We owe a thanks to the university administration and recreation director Ben Telesca for his help in working with the administration for arranging the funding that allowed us to be able to travel to Marshall for the semi-final game," said Rueda. "Ben has been great supporter of our group and has helped us a lot with many things we've needed."

"We had a blast!" said Tiffany Niemann about the conference championship games. "It was fun and exciting for everybody."

Niemann, who is the lone senior, knows she will graduate and move on, but she also knows she will not forget the lessons she has learned as a college cheerleader in enthusiasm, teamwork and attitude.

Try-outs will be held in April for next year's cheer squad. Rueda said that there were many high school students who were interested, so they expect a good turnout.

For more information on attending the tryouts, contact Telesca at btelesca, or (915) 837-8299.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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