For the Loyola spirit teams, this will be a season filled with firsts and adversities. For the first time in program history, both the cheer and dance teams are scheduled to compete at Universal Cheer and Dance Association (UCA/UDA) Nationals in Orlando, Florida, this January.
In past years, the dance team has represented Loyola on a national level. This January will be the dance team’s seventh season competing as a Division I program in the jazz and pom divisions at UDA nationals. Since 2012, the Ramblers have remained in the top 10 nationally in the pom division, peaking at fourth place in 2013.
This season, under the guidance of three-time UCA national champion Adina Faith, the cheerleaders also plan to represent the maroon and gold on a national stage.
However, the cheer team currently has five members, which is about seven fewer than the average cheer team Loyola has had in the past.
“We have a limited number of people on our team, making us have to appear larger as a team than we really are,” said senior cheerleader Bridgette Tyndall. “During practices, having less amount of people, we’re constantly … working really hard for the number of people we have.”
Although Loyola’s two spirit teams take part in separate competitions, they both have the same aspirations: to bring a national championship title back home to Chicago.
Both teams have extra practices, conditioning and workouts to build stamina for their routines. The squads practice three times a week for more than 20 hours total, according to senior dance team member Caroline Lafayette.
Although competing is an opportunity to bring attention to Loyola on a national level, both teams focus on their main job — to raise school spirit.
The spirit teams can be found cheering on the Loyola men’s and women’s basketball teams at every home game and postseason tournament. The cheer and dance teams also attend games for men’s and women’s volleyball and soccer, as well as promote athletic events by handing out fliers.
At Rambler Madness on Oct. 16, the teams put on a show of their offseason work. The spirit teams organized a routine that featured athletes representing their respective sports.
Lafayette, an accounting and finance double major, said organizing all of the teams to learn the dance was not an easy task.
“It was a lot of work. We’ve been working on this for about a month and a half now,” said the Detroit native. “Coming up with the music and the choreography and coordinating all of the athletes’ schedules was very difficult this year.”
Dance team head coach Mackie Ditch said the spirit teams’ roles are to keep the crowd excited.
“The dance and cheer teams will be there to help facilitate spirit and lead the crowd through cheers,” said Ditch, a Loyola grad. “And [the teams will] teach the students what’s happening for the upcoming basketball season.”
For now, the spirit teams continue to work hard at practice for both the sidelines and the national stage. The spirit teams plan to cheer on Loyola’s women’s basketball team on Nov. 1 when it takes on University of Wisconsin – Parkside in an exhibition game, as well as the men’s team on Nov. 6, when the Ramblers face their crosstown rival, Lewis University at Gentile Arena.