At Marist College, more times than not, football and men’s and women’s basketball are the sports that come to mind. However, a team that is constantly being overlooked happens to perform at those games– Marist’s very own club cheerleading team.
The team is just that, a club, but there is much more than what that title claims. Headlined by senior captains Cecilia Salupo, Shannon Grass, and Emily Lia, this team puts in the work day in and day out to make sure they put on a proper show at various Marist sports games.
“Everything that you see is choreographed on the field and is everything that we do. We find our own music, we put together the entire routines,” says captain Cecilia Salupo. “We see who fits the best together in each stunt, we have to run stretching drills, we have to figure out what lifts will be the most beneficial for our girls, especially in their specific positions as well. So pretty much every minor detail, and major, is what we’re in charge of.”
Not only are the captains making sure the routine is in check, but they have their focuses on the behind the scenes aspects as well. “Cheer is given a certain amount of money,” says captain Shannon Grass. “And that’s outside of fundraising and things like that. Anything that we want to purchase has to go through that budget. That is our responsibility to make sure that everything that is being purchased is within the budget and for a reason.”
But they are not alone, their coach, Christine Hailing, is there every step of the way. “Our coach is more like the mediator between us and athletics. She does a little bit more than her job description, but we’re definitely student run as well. But she definitely dedicates a ton of time to our team,” Salupo explains.
Grass adds, “She has our backs, especially as captains with anything that we do… The captains are the people that have to plan the budget and what everyone’s doing [such as] talk to the administrators and things like that. But she’s also just there to be like, ‘Hey, I have your back with this.’ If there are any other bigger issues she steps in.”
The cheer team has a lot on their plate to be able to do what they love on a daily basis, and put just as much time as the other varsity sports on campus. Yet they cannot seem to garner nearly as much attention. This could potentially stem from people not being as educated on the sport of cheer.
Cheerleading can be divided into two different categories: sideline cheer and competitions. Although the team can be seen on the sidelines of football and basketball games making sure the fans are on their feet, they spend just as much time getting competition ready.
Lia said, “We still do team lifts, we do run, we do everything like the other teams do, too. So I think that there’s definitely that athletic component of it.” Lia added, “For competitions we get outside choreographed for, which is nice, because choreographing ourselves is really hard. It’s three minutes of dancing, tumbling, stunting. It’s a lot to come up with.”
The process of choreography is incredibly grueling as the girls, one small mistake could cost them crucial points when being judged on the big stage. However, the team stays up for the challenge as they know what they are capable of.
Even though the team goes through all of this work to make sure they can compete at the highest level, they have not been able to showcase their talents. “I’ve been on the team since freshman year, and last year was the first time we ever competed. So, it was like a little bit more of a transition year for us,” Salupo explained. “This year, we were looking to go to Nationals [Daytona], but I think we started a little too late in the game with financing, so we wouldn’t have been able to really afford it.”
Before the pandemic, this team was a staple for competing, both locally and on the grandest stage. “They did them in the past, and then we had to stop with COVID which is where that break came from. They went to Nationals in Daytona, which is always a tough competition. But since we’ve been here, we only did the one in Rhode Island,” Lia added.
With all the hard work and effort the captains have to go through, there is still a glaring question that remains. Why is this team a club and not a varsity sport?
Most colleges have cheerleading as a designated varsity sport, but Marist still does not. “There definitely is a lot of logistics that we have to go through right now. The main thing I feel like is funding to be a varsity sport. A lot of funding goes into it, and that’s one thing we definitely tried to talk to administrators about and things like that, but I think it’s just gonna take a little bit. But that definitely is the goal,” said Grass.
With that in mind, the seniors may not be around to see that come to fruition, but there is always the avenue of coming back and helping the program grow. “I definitely want to have some role, not necessarily coaching wise, but even just to help the team,” Grass mentions. “I do feel like this year we have taken a big role in trying to make the team step up a little bit. If we do want to have that goal of being a varsity sport, we do need to show that we have the skill level.”
Whatever the case may be, it is evident how much effort these girls put into this program. They do everything they can to make sure they are at peak performance, as well as supporting the other teams on campus. In fact they traveled to Dublin, Ireland with the women’s basketball team to cheer them on.
Be sure to look out for them at the next Marist game whenever they take the floor. The time and effort the group puts in deserves the respect of not only other athletes, but the entire Marist community as a whole.
Edited by Isabella Cicinelli and Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Cheerleading Twitter