The Team Behind the Spirit


You see them at almost every event on campus cheering for the NMSU community. The question is, who cheers on the team that cheers for everyone else? New Mexico State University has one of the most outstanding collegiate cheer teams in the country. The members of the team spend countless hours practicing for perfection pushing their bodies to the limit.

“We basically practice from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and do community service hours on Tuesday,” said Cally Deleon a freshman studying psychology.

The team lifts weights for about an hour, then some of their members meet with the diving coach to practice basket tosses. After that, they meet in the auxiliary gym at the Activity Center and practice with the team doing routines. Many team members stay and practice after the coaches leave to keep working on their skills.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it,” said Lyla Islas a junior studying kinesiology.

Islas is from Tucson, Arizona and has been doing competitive cheer for most of her life. Her senior year of high school is when the team won first place at a national competition in 2014.

“They were a nationally ranked team and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Islas.

A lot of people do not understand that cheer is a year round sport. The team begins practicing in the summer starting in July. The team cheers for all of the football team’s home games, as well as volleyball and basketball games. Then they prepare for completion season in the spring.

The team has attended three collegiate cheer competitions known as UCA (Universal Cheer Association), NCA (National Cheerleaders Association) and USA cheer. Last March the team won first place at nationals (USA) for division one co-ed. This coming April will be the team’s third time attending NCA and they hope to make top three. Unfortunately, the team will not be able to attend the USA competition do to scheduling conflicts.

“Our first time at NCA we got fifth place, last year we got fourth, so I’m hoping we make top three this year,” said head coach Jessica Covington.

This will be Covington’s tenth year coaching the team. She told NMSU Round Up that she feels like a lot of people do not understand how much work her team puts in to win at these competitions as well as cheer for their university.

“They get a small break after competition, then they have try outs at the end of April,” said Covington. “They’re really only given a break for May and June, but they are required to condition two days a week during the off season.”

“What’s a spring break,” jokingly questioned Amanda Alvarez a third year cheer team member.

She says that most of the team who’s from out of town don’t go home for the holidays, because they’re constantly practicing and cannot afford to miss a practice. This leads to the question of are they doing too much?

“Our bodies are pushed to the extremes,” said Amanda Alvarez a third year cheer team member.

Both Alvarez and and Islas were injured at the same time last football season. Alvarez dislocated her elbow and Islas tore her ACL. Cheer is a full contact sport, but many people do not consider that.

“Try it,” a bold statement said by Drew Lopez, a freshman on the team.

He’s done rugby, boxing and cheer and he claims to have been hurt more in cheer than any other sport.

“People will always have an opinion. Cheer is physically challenging as well as mentally,” said Lopez.

Joseph Freundlrch has been with the team for the past four years and sees a massive change in the team’s dynamic this year.

“The cheer world is very competitive, but that doesn’t mean we’re a big happy family,” said Freundlrch.

The team assigns every veteran with a “little brother” or “little sister” to make sure they are staying on track not only on the team, but as well as in their academics. Briana Smith a freshman knew being a student athlete was going to be difficult, but she’s really feeling it now that the semester is in full swing.

“It was really hard for me at first, balancing classes, homework, practices and game days,” said Smith.

Smith explains that her teammates are her biggest support system. They constantly ask her how her classes are going and if she needs help with homework. Academics are very important for everyone on the team. You have to maintain a minimum of a 2.5 GPA to stay on the squad.

“It’s a part time job. We practice for maybe 12 hours a week not including game days. Your entire Saturday is given up to that,” said Islas.

The cheer team is seen not only at games, but are constantly asked to make appearances at NMSU events. Some of the members of the team have expressed a concern of feeling underappreciated by their peers.

“We are the only sports team to be at every event, I would love to know if we’re appreciated,” questioned Islas.

In addition to being at events, the team participates in various community service projects. One of them being called “Aggie Play” in which members of the team go to a local elementary school and play with kids.

“It isn’t stereotypical. We do so much besides shaking our pom-poms,” said Deleon.

Jessica Covington expressed that she would like to thank Athletics and ASNMSU for the support they give the team. She feels like they do have a support system, but the public is just unaware of how much work they put in.

“I’m proud of our program. I’m even prouder of my student athletes putting in the work to succeed,” said Covington.

The team isn’t affiliated with the NCAA and that could be a reason why some people don’t always here what they are doing. If they will ever get affiliated is up in the air. Cheerleading has been voted as an Olympic sport and Covington hopes that may help them get more recognition. For now, only time will tell.

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