Aggie Cheer Team Heads To Florida In Bid To Reclaim Championship Title
For the Texas A&M Cheer Squad, April 7 will be the biggest day of the year.
Endless hours of practice and preparation will all come down to one moment as the team competes for a championship title at the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) College Nationals in Daytona, Florida. A club team competing in the all-girl intermediate 1A category, the Aggies were back-to-back national champions in 2018 and 2019. After the COVID-19 pandemic led the NCA to cancel nationals in 2020, the Aggies returned to Daytona in 2021 and came back to College Station with a second place trophy in tow. This year, they’re set on claiming the top spot once again.
The road to Daytona has been a long one, but as head coach Atosha Rampy said, the team members have always been there to support each other through the many ups and downs of the season.
“Day in, day out, we’re here for each other,” said Rampy, who is now in her sixth season with the team. “No matter what happens, that’s what we’re going to do.”
The team has been ramping up their practice schedule throughout the semester, working hard to master a choreographed routine composed of high-flying flips and spins, precise movements and big smiles. Ultimately, what they’re really hoping to achieve is a kind of “wow factor,” said Bailey Bernal, a communications junior who serves as the squad’s public relations and merchandise officer.
“The judges are looking for something that just gives it a little extra, that gives it that extra push,” Bernal said. “Our wow factor this year is definitely how fast and jam-packed our routine is. There doesn’t seem like there’s a second to breathe in it.”
One thing that sets the Aggie cheer squad apart from its counterparts at other colleges is that it’s a strictly competitive team, meaning you won’t find Texas A&M cheerleaders on the sidelines at athletic events. That task remains with the Yell Leaders.
Instead, members of the Aggie cheer squad spend their time perfecting their competition routine, raising money to cover each season’s expenses, and focusing hard on their coursework. While it’s often difficult being at a university where cheerleading doesn’t get much recognition, communication junior Jordan Tillet said that being out of the spotlight can also feel liberating.
“I get to be a student for the first time,” Tillet said. “I’ve always been a cheerleader for my school, but now I get to enjoy my school as a student and do what I love.”
“The family aspect is absolutely everything. We love each other, we trust each other with our lives, we spend almost every second together.”
For Rampy, that’s what it’s all about — creating an environment where students who are passionate about cheerleading can hone their skills together while staying focused on their education.
“These girls come to A&M for academics first, and cheer is just something that they get to do because they love it,” Rampy said. “We really try to make this like a family.”
This is a message the students have truly taken to heart, said Katie Krall, an education junior who serves as the team’s treasurer: “The family aspect is absolutely everything,” she said. “We love each other, we trust each other with our lives, we spend almost every second together.”
They have also experienced their share of disappointment together. Tillet recalled the heartbreak she and her teammates felt after their second-place finish at last year’s championship and how Rampy lifted the team’s spirits by surprising Tillet with her long-awaited Aggie Ring.
“While we were on the beach honestly kind of mourning the loss of a season, she turned it around,” Tillet said. “I remember her saying, ‘This program isn’t about the national championship ring. It never has been, it never will be. It’s all about this ring.’”
Special moments like these are what help the team move forward and strive to be the best they can be, not only for themselves, but for every Aggie who has cheered for the team since it was founded in 2001. And as team vice president Lauren Ellis explained, they also work hard to set a good example for their youngest and most enthusiastic fans.
“I was one of those little girls looking up to the older girls,” said Ellis, a biomedical sciences junior. “Just to know that I’m here and there’s little girls looking up to me now, it’s the most incredible feeling.”
As the team gets ready to lay it all on the line at this year’s championship, team president Marissa Ramsey said they are feeling a lot of love from their fellow Aggies, due in part to a recent boost in their social media following.
“The Spirit of the 12th Man is unlike any other,” said Ramsey, a recreation, park and tourism sciences senior. “I’ve had people coming up to me asking me for pictures, saying, ‘I follow you you on Instagram, I’ve seen you on TikTok.’ That’s insane to me. I’m just here because I love to cheer, and to have support from A&M and from people beyond A&M is just absolutely crazy.”
Whether they reclaim their title or not, what the team is ultimately looking for in Daytona is the incomparable feeling of knowing that they performed to the absolute best of their abilities. In short — they want to nail it.
“It’s everything we’ve worked for, all the pain, all the tears, all the blood, the sweat, everything, paying off,” said Maddie Garza, an animal science senior and team fundraising officer. “You finish and you just want to give your teammate the biggest hug, and it’s amazing — the best feeling in the world.”