Flipping into victory

Photo courtesy of FAMU Cheer

The Florida A&M University cheer team has overcome tough challenges, emotionally and physically, to ultimately leave it all on the floor, winning a third-place title at the National Cheer Association Daytona Beach Classic.

The FAMU cheer team competed in the Intermediate All-Girls Division I section, scoring a 93.3519 performance score with a 0.5 deduction for their first time at the NCA competition. The team ranked in second place in the preliminary round, about two points behind first-place winners California Baptist University.

The NCA hosts an annual competition where cheer, dance, and spirit teams from across the country compete to be crowned champions. Teams spend months and countless hours of physically demanding practices to perfect a routine lasting an average of two minutes and 15 seconds on show day.

These routines are filled with advanced tumbling passes, high flying stunts, dancing, jumps, and last but not least, great pep and spirit—judges of the competition score six skills on a scale ranging from zero to five points. The categories scored are partner stunts, jumps, pyramids, tosses, standing and running tumbling.

A first-season FAMU cheerleader, Brianna Taylor, could not compete due to injury but went to the competition for moral support.

“For an HBCU to be considered to cheer at a competition that big is a big step in the world. My team put a lot of dedication and time into this with no complaining,” Taylor said. “Everybody always came ready and I saw a difference in my team that I had never seen.”

The girls were able to execute double baskets, whip through to layouts, step-outs, round off back handspring tucks, full ups, switch up heel stretches and other skills, landing them at the top of the leaderboard.

Due to Covid-19, lower student enrollment has decreased the activities budget from $2.7 million to $2.3 million. The Student Government Association works to make sure all activities are distributed a fair amount of funds while balancing the budget; however, FAMU cheer is the only athletic sport who does not receive scholarships and is responsible for hundreds of dollars in out of pocket fees.

Kayla Braggs, Activity and Service Budget Committee Chair in SGA, is proud of the feats the cheer team has overcome and wants to make sure the money allocated to their budget reflects their hard work.

“I feel for them because they are the only sport they have to pay to play,” Braggs said. “We are working with a reduced budget, so I want to make sure they get more bang for their buck.”

The team also dedicated this performance to a former cheerleader and captain, Makayla “MK” Bryant, who was shot and killed this semester. Bryant was fiery spirit and ability to get a crowd pumped up was unmatched.

Rachel Drakeford, a third-year cheerleader, reflects on the chant Bryant used to say that encouraged the team to stop underestimating themselves and leave everything on the mat.

“MK always did a chant, day by day get better and better,” Drakeford said. “A lot of vets on the team had her as a captain, and she would have been there coaching and helping us not only to do it for her but ourselves.”

In the words of Makayla Bryant, “day by day get better and better,” FAMU cheer is a team that can’t be beat.