On Friday night the team talked a lot about becoming greater than our circumstances. While our unique situation with two bowl games and UCA Nationals all within such a short time period has been exciting, it definitely put us at a disadvantage when it came to the competition. All around Disney people asked us, “How did you have time to prepare? You must be so tired!” Yes, we were a little sleep deprived and had to carefully schedule our time between practices, games and events; however, that was our circumstance. We knew the judges weren’t going to take anything into consideration except the routine we performed on the mat. I left that night with my eyes a little puffy and my heart completely full. I wanted to excel so badly for my teammates next to me, and I think that’s the sign of a true family.
Saturday morning we set out to practice on the football field at our resort. Everywhere you looked teams practicing skills, stretching or perfecting their cheers. We were off to a great start. Our elites seemed to hit seamlessly and our pyramids felt effortless. We felt completely calm and prepared. A huge part of this comes from the way we’ve been practicing. Coach Ben and Sio run every practice exactly how competition day is set up. By this point it was normal for us to run a ten minute warm-up, wait fifteen minutes and then go full out.
Usually as I am curling my hair and getting ready to compete, the butterflies start to set in. This year they just weren’t there like they normally are. I had never been so excited to show the world my routine!
As we headed over to HP Field House, the team was focused and ready for business. We had a great warm-up and soon enough it was our turn on the mat. As we walked underneath the castle archways and onto the floor I couldn’t help but smile. Our fight song was blaring; I could see our fans, family and coaches cheering in the front row. “This is the one!” “We’ve got this!” “Confidence Bucks. I believe in you.” These are all things I heard from my teammates while we waited for our music to start. In the blink of an eye our opening stunts hit and I could hear the arena cheering! What felt like ten seconds—but in reality was two minutes and 30 seconds—passed and we were already done. Backstage we watched our routine. We had a few minor errors, but overall it was the best performance our team had put on the floor yet. Coach always says, “You have to do what you have to do; no matter what it is.” Our team lived by that statement that day. We did what we needed to do to keep the stunts in the air. I was shaking from happiness.
Later they announced the teams moving on to Finals; we made it! That night Coach Ben spoke on each individual, their personal improvements and their journey. Our team is very young, and the accomplishments made this year alone are outstanding. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come, so it was nice to be reminded of the success we had already achieved, and it was very evident that Ben and Sio were already extremely proud of this team.
Final day was a blur. We practiced in the morning, went to support our dance team and then stepped into our new white uniforms for the final show. Warms-ups were a little different. We acted a bit more like kids hyped up on Mountain Dew than the calm team from a day ago. The Buckeyes were the first team in our division! Standing behind the stage our team huddled together for the last time. As cliché as it sounds, I already felt like I had won. We stepped onto the mat as a family, and two minutes and 30 seconds later, we stepped off as one. Our routine wasn’t the perfect hit we’d been searching for. A disappointment? A little bit. Not because it was being judged, but more so because we desperately wanted to get that hit for each other. We put our arms around one another in a circle and sang our Alma Mater, Carmen Ohio. While we were singing, I believe we all felt at peace. Even though it wasn’t the ideal ending, I’ve never been prouder of my teammates.
Soon it was time for awards! UCA placed all of the teams in a perfect U-shape around a huge table of trophies. Jeff Webb read the placements, and when he got to eighth he said, “This team has a strong future, mark my words. The Ohio State University!” We were incredibly happy – eighth out of 22! I believe Jeff’s words wholeheartedly. The young talent on this team paired with the knowledge of our coaching staff and the drive to succeed is going to take Ohio State to a whole new level.
As I mentioned earlier, the team always spoke on becoming greater than our circumstances. I have no doubt in my mind that we achieved that. It’s been an unforgettable journey and probably one of the best months of my life! From the Sugar Bowl to the National Championship game and finally UCA College Nationals, these will forever be considered success stories in the eyes of the Ohio State cheerleading program.