From the crisp weather of Boise, Idaho to the heat and humidity of Orlando, Fla., the Boise State Spirit Squad traveled across the country to compete in the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship Jan. 17-19.
For the first time in program history, the squad placed seventh in the nation in the DIA Coed Game Day division for their game day routine. After qualifying for the finals in 10th place, which was also a first for the program, Boise State was speechless when they were not announced 10th, ninth or even eighth.
Since it was the squad’s first time competing in the Game Day division, head coach Kelsey Messer was not sure what to expect.
“It was incredible,” Messer said. “I mean, we knew that we couldn’t go in there and disappoint ourselves, but being able to jump three places and be top 10 in the nation is incredible for this program. And it just shows the trajectory that we’re on.”
When the Broncos heard their name announced as earning seventh place, everyone reacted in a different way. For sophomore Sierra Semler, the memorable moment was surreal.
“I just remember sitting there holding my two best friends’ hands,” Semler said. “When calling our name, we were kind of shocked and both of mine and Erik [Lindgren]’s parents came up to us and were like, ‘This is what we’ve been dreaming for since you guys were six-years-old.’ So it’s an indescribable moment that only cheerleaders will really understand.”
For many cheerleaders, competing at nationals is a childhood dream, but most don’t get the opportunity to hit the mats at the Walt Disney World Resort. Semler and Lindgren have cheered together since they were six-years-old and had always hoped to accomplish what they did on Jan. 17.
“So it’s pretty cool, accomplishing that this weekend and actually making our childhood dream a reality, but then also obviously getting called to finals and getting seventh place in Game Day,” Semler said. “[It’s] just something that no one really expected, even the teams around us. And so it’s just really more rewarding for all that.”
By placing seventh in the nation and making history for the program, the Spirit Squad’s bar for success has been set high for future seasons.
“[Moving] up to seventh, that really showed us that we can do this,” Lindgren said. “We have the mentality that we want to win next year. We want to go out there, we want to win. And in our other division, which is our small coed division, we have yet to make it to finals. And we truly do believe that we can make it to finals.”
Competing against bigger, more well-known universities can be intimidating, but Boise State stepped up their game and gave the other squads a run for their money.
University of Kentucky, the 2019 UCA champions, did not move on to the finals this year, making the Boise State Spirit Squad feel more confident in their odds for the coming years.
“It is always tough because we feel as though they have an advantage over us,” Lindgren said. “It’s really cool to know that it’s fair game. When it comes to routines, if you hit your routine, if you put out there what you feel is your best, everyone has a fair shot. So it’s really cool to be able to compete against the big team names and place higher than them.”
After being a part of the program for eight years, both as a cheerleader and coach, Messer has seen the team reach new heights, especially in their appearance at national competitions, and predicts that the growth will only continue.
“This is something that we would have dreamed of five years ago,” Messer said. “We never would have gotten the opportunity or have the outreach to do it…It’s just awesome to see that people do recognize the hard work that [the Spirit Squad]put[s]in, because they don’t get an offseason. They work hard all year long. And I think it’s just cool to see that they’re actually getting the recognition and support that they deserve.”