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By Student-athlete Erica Condon

If someone told me that my team would earn the title of National Champions when I joined the Sacred Heart Cheerleading team in 2016, I would not have believed them. My first year on the team we placed 15th out of 16 teams at the 2017 at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) College National championships. We are a small catholic school from Connecticut struggling to make a name for ourselves in the world of cheerleading.

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After a year of hard work, new incoming athletes, and extreme preparation, we improved our rankings and placed sixth at the 2018 UCA Nationals. In 2019, we had high hopes to beat our score from the previous year. However, due to minor falls and mistakes we fell short and placed 11 th in the nation. Fast forward to the 2019-2020 season, my senior year. We began this season with strong determination, kicking off our season at UCA camp in August where we practiced alongside many other teams in our division. Our expectations were high and we wanted to finally make a name for Sacred Heart University Cheerleading. From August up until late January, we practiced five to six times a week, lifted weights with our athletic trainer twice a week while also cheering for our football and basketball teams.

We spent six months perfecting a two minute and a half minute routine to perform at Nationals. Repetition is key. We didn’t practice until we got it right, we practiced until we couldn’t get it wrong. Going into Nationals, we had a straightforward goal of hitting our routine to the best of our ability. We were not worried about how we compared to other teams, as long as we did our best we knew we would walk off the mat feeling accomplished. And that is exactly what we did. In the semi-finals, we had one minor fall. However, we were shocked to find out we ranked third in the field of 16 teams. We advanced to the final round that included the top eight teams. Suddenly, we had a chance to place in the top three.

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On the day of the competition, the Twitter account @UCAupdates tweeted “For the past decade, the University of West Georgia and Morehead State University have battled it out for the top two spots in All Girl Division I. Will one of these two elite teams bring home the title in 2020 or will a new contender take the top spot?”

After nailing a perfect routine in finals, we beat West Georgia to secure first place and the National Championship title. We were living in the moment that every cheerleader dreams of since she was a little girl. We embraced each other and fell to the floor in tears of happiness and disbelief. The underdogs from Sacred Heart University were just named the 2020 All Girl Division I National Champions.

We arrived back to campus with a police escort and a warm welcome from fellow students, faculty, news stations, and family members. Our sport is often overlooked, misunderstood, and underestimated but we put Sacred Heart University’s cheerleading on the map by doing the unimaginable. We worked our way up from the very bottom and made it out on top. Our team is beyond proud and honored to hold the national title. It is truly a dream come true.

Photo Credits: Images courtesy of Erica Condon, Pexels