The Ithaca College cheerleading squad capped off its season with what every team is always gunning for — a national championship.
The Bombers overcame injuries to capture the all-girls small college division title at the American Cheer & Dance Academy Championships on April 2 and 3 in Ocean City, Md.
The Blue and Gold were ranked second behind SUNY-Cortland heading into the final routines on day two. The South Hill squad made up ground and finished in a tie for first-place with Cortland and a share of the national title.
Three judges each day scored the competition out of a cumulative score of 300. The Blue and Gold scored 461.9 of 600 points in two days to capture the title.
Several members were sidelined with sprained ankles and a concussion in the two weeks leading up to the championships, forcing the team to alter its routine toward a safer program that could be easily mastered in a short amount of time.
Head Coach Dennis Friends said the team had to adapt on the fly.
“One of the things that a lot of people don’t understand is that cheerleading doesn’t have a bench,” Friends said. “There’s nobody you can put in when somebody gets hurt, and so you have to start reworking stuff and start changing things, and that affects the chemistry.”
Despite the changes, junior captain Katie Gaskill said the Bombers were confident going up against an established Cortland squad.
“We were kind of expecting to fall somewhere in the top three, but we didn’t expect to come in first,” Gaskill said.
The teams were judged on both their technical ability in areas such as jumping, tumbling and pyramids, as well as a teams’ ability to engage the audience.
Senior captain Ashley Pellegrino said the win was a perfect ending to her cheerleading career.
“I’ve never been more proud of a team that I’ve been on,” she said. “It’s been the best team in the four years I’ve been here by far.”
While the winning the title was a great achievement, Gaskill said the way the team came together meant more to her than the title itself.
“Honestly, for us to be able to go out and hit our routine perfectly was more exciting to us than winning,” she said. “To do the best that we knew we could do was all that really mattered to us.”