The MNU cheerleading team placed third in conference on Feb. 6 and now first-year head coach Banen Royer’s goal for the team is for them to compete at the NAIA National Cheer & Dance competition. To be able to make this goal a reality, the MNU cheer team must compete three times during the regular season to be eligible to compete at the North Regional Competition on Feb. 27.

To be able to fulfill this requirement, the MNU cheer team competed twice on Jan. 31. The team first competed at the Baker Invitational, a competition hosted by Baker University, and then again at the MNU vs. Baker duel, a head-to-head competition between the two schools, later in the day.

The Baker Invitational was the first time that 10 of the 14 members of the team had ever participated in a cheerleading competition. During this routine, the team made several mistakes that resulted in the team not placing during the invitational.

Kalena Pana, junior kinesiology major, said that not placing during the Baker Invitational really motivated the team to work together to bring home a win during the MNU vs. Baker duel later that day.

“I don’t think people realize how competitive cheerleaders get at competitions. [Not placing] really lit a fire under everyone’s butt to give 110 percent during the duel because we didn’t want to leave that competition empty-handed,” Pana said.

After the Baker Invitational and the duel with Baker, the MNU cheerleading team had less than one week until they had to compete their routine at the HAAC competition.

“After Baker, nobody was satisfied with the result,” Royer said. “They wanted to put in extra time to add difficulty. So in a matter of six days, we were able to make the routine harder and cleaner.”

With the improvements the team was able to make to their routine, they expected to place well at the Heart of America Athletic Conference competition on Feb. 6. Royer said that when the team did not place in the top-three with their nearly perfect routine, they were confused. After the competition, Royer was notified that a mistake had been made during the scoring process.

“We found out that the deductions were not subtracted properly. So when we were at the event, we thought we had placed fourth. We received an email [following the event] saying that we had placed third,” Royer said. “Instead of making the team excited, it made them like ‘oh okay, so it’s going to be like that?’ It made them ready to add even more difficulty in.”

The MNU cheerleading team poses for a picture at the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship on Feb. 6. This was the team’s third and best performance of the season, finishing third in the competition. Photo credit: Banen Royer. The MNU cheerleading team poses for a picture at the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship on Feb. 6. This was the team’s third and best performance of the season, finishing third in the competition. Photo by Banen Royer.

Royer said that the team’s big goal for the competition season is to have a top-five finish at nationals. For the MNU cheer team to even have the opportunity to compete at the NAIA Cheer & Dance Nationals in Davenport, Iowa on March 11 and 12, they will have to place in the top-three at the North Regional Competition on Feb. 26.

“At regionals, we have to place top-three to qualify for nationals. I think we’re capable and can be competitive. I would like to see a top-five result for nationals,” Royer said.  “I think there is time and if the energy is focused right, that they can do it.”

Royer said that a big part of why she wanted this position was because she had watched the program develop while she was cheering at Avila University and later coaching at William Jewell College. While she wasn’t able to do her own recruiting for the 2015-2016 season, she said she couldn’t have asked for a better team to begin her journey at MNU.

“If you had told me that this was what I was going to have, I would not have believed you, but they don’t settle. I was interested in this job because I cheered at Avila,” Royer said. “I’ve been across town watching the program evolve, and I knew that I could bring something to it.”