The College of Staten Island has come a long way on the cheerleading mat over the years. The co-educational, non-varsity squad was in limbo for six years before resurrecting the program in 2008-09, and on Thursday night, the team will be doing something for the very first time: defending a CUNYAC championship on its own floor. The College of Staten Island will serve as the host school for the CUNYAC Championship showcase on Thursday evening for the second year in a row, and the team will be going up against four competitive squads that will be sure to give them everything they can handle and more.
“There’s always pressure to defend the throne and that’s what we’re vying to do,” said CSI head coach Justine Elyse Gree, who is also a principal organizer of the event. “Each season, we push ourselves to do better, know more, and try harder than we did the season and even the day before. Our program has little to do with what everybody else seems to be doing and everything to do with who we are and who we aspire to be.”
The Cheerleading competition within the CUNYAC is an interesting one. It is the lone true competitive event that the conference offers in the sport, and because of this, the pressure and anxiety can be felt all over the facility on competition day. Teams have nearly two minutes on the floor and one shot to get things right, and for teams like Staten Island’s, it is the culmination of over four months of hard work crammed into a tiny window of time.
“We’ve been preparing since January for this event,” said Green. “We practice three days a week, in addition to basketball games, campus appearances and volunteer work. We spent earlier practices securing the foundation, which includes basics like jumps, motions and lower level stunting, and moved into incorporating difficulty. When they are not studying, some of the girls work out at the gym and do home exercises to improve strength and flexibility.”
The Dolphins will come into the five-team competition as the defending champs, overcoming both John Jay College and Brooklyn College last year for their first title since 2003. That won’t mean too much to this year’s installment of the CSI program, which is returning only six student-athletes from its championship squad a year ago, boasting a total of eight new faces, more than half the entire squad. For Green, who is finishing up her third year with the program, the team is situated just fine, mixing the championship experience with freshmen exuberance.
“We have a very young team and many of the ladies have neither cheered nor competed before, especially on the collegiate level, but our team works well together and they are always helping one another personally and academically,” the coach said. “They are truly a great group of young ladies.”
To repeat as champs the Dolphins will need to best four other CUNYAC squads. Along with the Bloodhounds and Bulldogs, who finished second and third respectively a year ago, Medgar Evers College and Kingsborough Community College will also put competitive teams on the floor. Baruch College’s Dance Team will participate as an exhibition squad.
“Each season, we work to improve the overall skill level of the team. Ideally, we’d love to see two cheerleading teams representing CSI, a Spirit team and a competitive team. However, we’re always looking for ways to grow and move from where we are to a nationally competitive program,” Green explained. “Staten Island is home to many competitive high school cheerleading teams and we hope that they will continue with cheer as they matriculate through college, and for us that culminates in the CUNYAC Championship. it’s very exciting.”
The evening doesn’t only feature the competitive cheer routines that vie for a championship. There will also be three rounds of competition that feature Stunting, Jumping, and Tumbling. CSI will compete in all three of those events as well. Prior to the events, junior varsity and varsity cheer squads from Moore Catholic and Fort Hamilton’s varsity squad will be performing as well. It’s all part of what is an exceptional showcase of cheerleading put out by the conference.
Tickets for the CUNYAC Cheerleading Championship are free for all spectators, but fans will need a ticket to enter. Tickets are only available electronically via the CUNYAC website at www.cunyathletics.com or by clicking here. Doors open at 6:15pm, with the showcase starting at 7:00pm.