BYU cheer and STUNT team ranked nationally after late start

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BYU cheer and STUNT team members, accompanied by Liz Darger, senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, pose after their first STUNT tournament in Sacramento, California. They finished their first season ranked fifth for Division I schools. (Dahl Photography)

The BYU cheer and STUNT team was ranked fifth in the nation for Division I schools after its first season competing in STUNT.

STUNT is currently the fastest growing female sport in the nation, according to the USA cheer website.

“I think anytime BYU is able to put themselves ‘on the map’ nationally, (it’s) a good thing not only for our program but for the university and the church, ” said Jocelyn Allan, head BYU cheer and STUNT coach. “It gives us a lot of missionary opportunities … and a chance to show people who we are, what we stand for and what we represent as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

STUNT is an emerging all-girl sport run under the USA Federation for Sport Cheering, the governing body of cheerleading in the U.S. It minimizes the subjectiveness of traditional cheer competitions, removes the crowd-leading element and focuses on the athletic portion of traditional cheerleading, including partner stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, group jumps and tumbling.

“At the end of a cheerleading competition, you might see two great routines and not really know which one the judges and their opinion are going to pick,” Allan said. “(The way STUNT is structured) makes it much more like a sport and a little less subjective, and that’s what I like about it.”

STUNT teams play games with four quarters, with each quarter having several rounds. The first quarter is partner stunts, second is basket tosses and pyramids, third is jumps and tumbling and fourth is a combination of all three, made into mini routines. Each category of skill has six to seven different levels all STUNT teams learn and compete in and that coaches call when they gain possession each round. STUNT teams compete head-to-head during each round, executing the exact same skills at the exact same time. One team is awarded a point, or a tie is called, making it easy to follow as a spectator.

“You can know nothing about this new sport and because of the side-by-side comparison be able to come to a game and be totally interested, engaged and know exactly who won,” Allan said.

The Cougars attended a STUNT tournament in Sacramento, California, last March, playing a total of four games against the University of California-Berkeley, Sacramento State University and Concordia University Irvine.

“I always enjoy cheering on our student-athletes,” said Liz Darger, senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator. “The STUNT tournament last year was very exciting, and I loved how hard our team competed and how well they represented BYU.”

BYU nearly had a full sweep of the tournament, losing only to Sacramento State by one point in the finals. Based on their stats and performance at this tournament, BYU was ranked fifth for NCAA Division I schools in STUNT’s final standings.

“No one expected this of us,” said Macey Davis, this year’s BYU STUNT team captain. “We went to the tournament, and the other teams thought they were going to kill us and that it would be an easy win because a lot of people knew when we started and thought, ‘There’s no possible way.'”

Davis said the BYU STUNT team had a late start last year because it originally planned to compete at a traditional cheerleading competition and practiced toward that from September until December. The team officially decided to compete in STUNT instead and began practices at the end of January, due to the holidays.

Davis added that STUNT material videos are typically sent out in October, meaning the Cougars were months behind most programs in preparation time for their first season.

“I learned how much practice it was going to take,” Allan said. “We did very well ranking fifth in the entire country post-season (and went) up against some great, big universities. I think I just learned that if we prepare a little bit better this year, this could be a real strength for us.”

Allan and Davis both expressed their determination to participate in multiple STUNT tournaments this coming season in order to qualify for the national championship, the only one of its kind in the world. They plan to begin practices this October and have a goal to win nationals this year.

“Last year, we had a month and a half of preparation, and competing was not really our main focus,” Allan said. “Our main focus was the other athletic teams on campus. From this, I know that with slightly more preparation and just a little bit more time, we really could win a national title this year and that just makes me hungry.”

The BYU cheer and STUNT program cheers for football, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball, meaning they are busy during the fall semester when the sports overlap. On top of cheering at games, they attend appearances for the university and try to balance practices, school, work, social life, church callings and other involvements.

“I think a lot of people don’t really realize how talented and amazing the cheer team is at BYU,” Allan said. “They really are the cream of the crop and come to us from all over. It means a lot to me for everybody, not only on campus but in the entire country, to see that BYU has an amazing cheer and STUNT program. To get that recognition for the cheerleaders means a lot to me because I think they deserve it.”