Cheer Team ends hiatus

Featured Image: For the first time in 5 years, Marlins cheer team prepares for upcoming season. Carey Seay | Marlin Chronicle

After a near five year hiatus, cheer has returned to Virginia Wesleyan. The team is coached by Cherelle Artis and Elise Fabregas, both Virginia Wesleyan alumnae. 

Prior to coaching at Virginia Wesleyan University, Artis coached at a high school. For Fabregas, this is her first year of coaching, but the task is far from daunting, as she is heavily involved with her daughter’s competitive cheer career and describes cheer as her “world.” 

Both are also experienced cheerleaders and were members of the former cheer program at Virginia Wesleyan. During their time here, the cheer program had two teams, one for the Men’s Basketball team and one for the Women’s Basketball team. The program also participated in competitions and was successful, getting some wins under their belt.

For the coaches, the return to this University was destiny. After attending a homecoming tailgate, Artis was shocked to learn that the cheer program had been dismantled.

“I was like, I would love to help bring it back, do whatever we can to get it back because I know that was really a foundation for a lot of students,” Artis said. “It helped them kind of find their core group. And helped them stay more engaged in school and classes.”

Artis worked hard with Dr. David Black, who works in the Trinder Center for Advancement, to reinstitute the cheer program, so it was only natural that she would be awarded the job. Once she got the job, she brought on Fabregas and the rest is history.

Before the start of the school year, Artis and Fabregas were able to recruit seven first-years for the program. They then spent the beginning of the year in the halls, working tirelessly to fill the rest of their team. Fortunately, there were students on campus who had previously cheered for their high school and decided to dust off their cheer sneakers and join Virginia Wesleyan’s cheer program.

After a successful recruiting effort, the cheer program features 17 members, which, according to Artis, just satisfies the ideal range for a collegiate team.

In the world of cheer, similar to any other sport, there are different realms that vary in complexity. A lot of the cheer members have done sideline cheer, in which one cheers for a sports team during their game. Sideline cheer, however, requires a more basic skill set than competitive cheer, which features far more intricate routines.

Senior cheerleader KeAsia Howington, who was a sideline cheerleader her freshman year of high school, commented on how her experience translates to being on a collegiate cheer team.

“It’s different and more complicated especially since I haven’t done sideline for 7 years and have no experience with competition,” Howington said.

This year, Artis and Fabregas face the problem of varying skill levels in their program. While they recognize this obstacle, they have remained unfazed and soldier on. “I don’t see it as a setback. We’re definitely up to the challenge,” Artis said. “I feel like if anything It just gives us that more of a drive like hey, we’ve got to work harder to get everyone up to par.”

With hard work, Artis feels the team will be successful.

“For cheer, as long as you have dedication you can make it work. If you put in the hours, you can get the results,” Artis said.

This season, the cheer team will be competing in two competitions, the first being an exhibition to give the team some practice before the real competition in Hampton.

“We’re just trying to get our feet wet,” Artis said.

For Fabregas, the competition provides a chance for development.

“[Competition] comes with so much. Travel is expensive,” Fabregas said. “So we definitely want to make sure that when we do go there, we have everything.”

In addition to the goal of growth, the coaches also aspire to bring back the school spirit this University once had. Fabregas attested to the school’s spirit in the past.

“When we went here, school spirit was huge,” Fabregas said.

Artis further supported the old school spirit for the cheer team. “We were well-supported by the campus community. The games were well attended. We were definitely well known around the campus,” Artis said.

Although this season serves as a trial run for the program, the coaches are highly ambitious and excited for what is to come.

“I think we’re progressing very well. I think, you know, with any new program, there’s that learning curve and seeing what works,” Artis said. “We have some really great talent on our team, and we have a lot of great leaders who are inspiring each other and encouraging each other.”

With the dedication of Artis and Fabregas, the sky’s the limit for this new program. Come out to see the cheer team in action at the Men’s and Women’s Basketball games this year.

By: Sydnee Washington