Unlike every other Youngstown State University cheerleader, Katie Pompeii had never cheered a day in her life. Pompeii made the squad in 2011, after shedding sweat and tears.
“I started out as a base, and I hated it. It was frustrating and upsetting because I wasn’t doing good,” Pompeii said. “Then they moved me to back spot, and I found out that’s where I excelled.”
Other eager men and women showed up to Beeghly Center on Friday and Saturday for YSU’s cheerleading tryouts, with the hopes of being given the same opportunity as Pompeii.
Twenty-five prospects tried out for the team, and 15 made varsity.
Two people were given an alternate position and will be promoted to varsity before the first football game.
Pompeii spent her high school career playing volleyball and intended to go to either Westminster College or Thiel College to play, but said she found herself “falling out of love” with the sport.
“I just wanted to be involved with school a little bit more, and I knew how to tumble, but I never thought that I would be able to keep up with the girls,” Pompeii said. “I don’t think people give cheerleaders enough credit.”
Pompeii said that being a part of the squad keeps her focused with school because involvement in extracurricular activities requires decent grades.
While Pompeii said she feels like she experienced the hardest part of tryouts last year, she was still apprehensive about being judged this year. As a veteran, though, Pompeii found comfort in instructing newcomers.
“There were some that seemed a little more advanced than others,” Pompeii said. “I was attracted to the people who needed a little more help because I knew what it was like to be in their shoes.”
Like Pompeii, YSU sophomore Marissa White tried out for her first time this year. She said she got her inspiration from her roommate, Melinda Bolton, who is a veteran cheerleader.
White did gymnastics for eight years and cheered in high school, but never intended to cheer at the college level. She said that even though she hasn’t experienced the team to its fullest extent yet, she looks forward to being involved.
The veteran cheerleaders, she said, made her feel welcome throughout the tryout process.
“They were really helpful, and they really wanted me to make it. I felt like there was no competition, and we were all really helping each other out,” White said.
Malloree Miller has cheered with YSU’s squad for three years and has cheered for eight years altogether.
Miller said the newcomers were eager to learn and adapted well to the style of cheerleading used at the collegiate level.
“I know how intimidating it can be to go out for something that you really want,” Miller said. “Like Katie last year, she had never cheered before a day in her life, and it’s really admirable.”
Tryouts are two days and include tumbling, jumping, three cheers, a fight song dance and stunts. The judging starts as soon as the prospective cheerleaders walk through the door.
Each year, goals are set to keep standards high for the squad. For example, each returning cheerleader was required to do a “tuck,” or a standing flip, this year. The ultimate goal, Miller said, is to increase talent each year.
The results are announced at the end of the second day of tryouts.
Pompeii said the team’s greatness is achieved by each person’s individual aspirations.
“I feel like everyone has a lot to offer the team. Everyone comes in each year with a personal goal for themselves,” Pompeii said. “So there is self-improvement everywhere. I know, as a team overall, we set standards for last year, and I think we’ve exceeded them.”