GCU Cheer team rallies for 2nd place at nationals
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The Grand Canyon University Cheer team was down after it lost points by official ruling on the first day of competition of the Universal Cheerleader Association’s national championships last weekend in Orlando, Fla.
But GCU rallied on the second day to win second place in the mat competition, behind only juggernaut University of Memphis. To GCU Cheer coach Emily Stephens, it proved the determination of her team through adversity.
On the first day, Stephens thought her team had captured the Game Day competition, only to find out there was a two-point deduction for a fall. After reviewing the performance, Stephens said it was more of an “unstable landing” than a fall. They challenged the ruling, but it held.
GCU finished in fourth place of 28 teams in Game Day.
“It is still a huge accomplishment,” she said. “But we were disappointed and shocked. We met that night and that next morning, and everybody was able to flip a switch. It was the motivation we needed.
“We don’t know why it happened to us Friday, but I think the Lord knew that for whatever reason we were going to need that extra oomph.”
The team pulled together the next day. The entire squad who traveled to the competition — all 30 — joined the 16 in the warmup room who were to take the floor for the mat competition.
“Everybody rallied around those 16 people. We’ve always done that. It was, ‘Listen we’ve been through something tough. We need to stick together and hold our heads up high. We are going to prove who we are.’
“That family, that unity, really brought us together to create a strong front that sealed the deal for us.”
Stephens said associate coach Keegan Hubbard‘s calming influence was a key, as was Kaitlin Aragon, who filled in for an injured teammate.
“I hadn’t done a lot of those things before. I had two weeks to learn it,” Aragon said. “I was the ‘flyer,’ the tippy-top of the pyramid.”
The senior said the previous day’s ruling “lit a fire” in the team, and they nailed it.
“We are a family. We go out and do it together, through the pain and tears, but we love each other, and it got us second place.”
Stephens said she was proud of the team’s bounce-back – a reminder that they weren’t doing it for a trophy.
“We were doing it to represent GCU and represent the Lord, and that is what matters,” she said.
For Aragon, it was her last competition as a senior.
“It helped me grow as a person. We couldn’t do it without each other,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t want the competition to end in any other way.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.