Kingston University’s cheerleading captain is confident her squad can build on solid performances in their first competition of the season and reach even greater heights this weekend.
The Kingston Cougars came away satisfied from last month’s Future Cheer University Nationals, their Level Three squad finishing fourth while the Level One team narrowly missed out on a top three result by just 2% in a competitive division.
Each team is required to perform a two-and-a-half minute routine and is judged on their stunting, dancing, jumping and tumbling abilities, the difficulty of which increases significantly between each category up to Level Six, which is the elite.
While the results did not quite match last year’s double victory from the meet, Sophia Nasif-Whitestone believed they achieved highly respectable finishes but recognised the need for improvement ahead of the ICC University Nationals in Nottingham, starting on Saturday.
She said: “I thought Future Cheer went ok, although it was a bit disappointing for Level One as they had a couple of illegalities where we weren’t aware the rules had changed this year.
“So it was quite disappointing because if they hadn’t had those deductions they would have probably come out second.
“The Level Three team did really well, although we would have done even better if we’d had more tumbling scores.
“It is really hard as a university team, especially with our facilities, to learn tumbling and we were up against teams like the Cardiff Snakecharmers and Queen Mary Angels, who all have sprung floors.
“But the stunts were really, really good – I think we had one wobble but we didn’t get a deduction for it. I personally felt my stunt team did really well and our pyramid was really good.
“I think Level Three was a really hard division this year and I’ve seen a lot of comments on forums saying that it was a really difficult competition and all the teams were really good.”
While she may be used to the pressure of competing, it was Nasif-Whitestone’s first experience of being in charge of a squad during a competition, something she admitted she found nerve-wracking in the weeks before.
“Running the team went ok but it was quite stressful, I’m not going to lie,” the 23-year-old explained.
“We were telling our Level One team to get ready on the coach because they had to go straight to the warm-up mat as soon as we arrived but, because they hadn’t done a competition before, they didn’t really get that you literally have to do just that.
“So that was quite stressful but after that it was fine, it went quite smoothly really and I think everyone enjoyed their day.
“We had a few on that team who got really, really nervous in the warm-up but now they’ve got that first comp out of the way I think it will be easier for them to understand and cope with the nerves next time round.”
The Cougars have worked hard ahead of this weekend’s event in Nottingham and have been utilising the training facilities of the Surrey Starlets, who they share a coach with.
Both teams will take part at the competition and Nasif-Whitestone is looking forward to watching some of her former university team-mates performing for one of the best teams in the country, while also targeting a top finish from her own squad at a competition they won in 2015.
“We want to get in the top three, although last time we did ICC we did win that,” she said.
“I’m quite excited – we didn’t do it last year because it clashed with our Easter break and everyone had gone home for the holidays.
“And it will be really nice as well because we will get to see all our alumni who are on Surrey Starlets as there are quite a lot of them and we’ll get to see them compete as well.”