PCC cheerleaders make history at 2021 nationals winning 2nd place overall

Ritchy Hitoto
Pratt Tribune
The Pratt Community College cheer squad shows their excitement after a traditional victory dive into the ocean at Daytona Beach, Florida during the 2021 Natnational cheer competition.

In three short years Shae Napier, Pratt Community College’s head cheer and dance coach, has taken an unknown program and turned it into a national contender. On April 9, 2021, the PCC cheer squad went to Daytona, Florida to compete in the National Cheerlerading Association’s Collegiate Cheer Championships and came home with 2nd place in the nation, making history for Pratt and for junior colleges in the state of Kansas.

Cheerleading is not currently recognized as an NJCAA sponsored sports and yet the leaps and bounds made by those involved with the activity at PCC have surpassed expectations in many ways.

In a two-year span, PCC cheer participants have earned the following accolades: 2020 Conference Champs, 2020 and 2021 Conference Gameday Champs, 2021 Conference runner up, 2021 All Girls Stunt Champs, 2021 Group Stunt 3rd place. And to cap off an already successful year, they made history by not only going to cheer nationals for the first time in PCC history, they placed in the top three.

“This year has been different and tough for every program and team across the nation this year and we were no exception,” coach Napier said. “From covid, injuries, constantly switching people in and out of things as a result of injury, attitudes and motivation as those attitudes develop and mature, the insane scheduling of all the spring sports we support on top of a grueling competitive schedule for nationals and more, it’s just been quite a year.” 

The Pratt team’s journey to NCA Nationals was quite an experience, just like their year of competition and sport support has been.

At 3 a.m. on April 7,   PCC cheer team members and support staff loaded a bus that took them to the Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita. Unfortunately, the initial 5:35 a.m. flight was cancelled, and it wasn’t until six hours later following duty-free food, napping on the airport floors and chairs and entertaining strangers by stunting in the middle of the airport, that the Pratt team finally took off for Florida. The team arrived at the Daytona Ocean Center past their call-time for practice but yet managed to squeeze in a quick floor run. 

The next day in spite of a short night’s sleep at the Plaza Resort and Spa, practice and their first round of competition was sharp, and the team qualified for the finals. 

On finals day April 9, almost anything that could go wrong during practice did go wrong. Stunts were missed, teammates bleeding, bodies aching, and discouragement rose to name a few. The high of the day before faded. The team went to their final performance feeling ill-prepared. 

But following a powerful team prayer and pep talk the PCC Beavers performed well. And then the wait was on. The group  waited for the Intermediate Small Coed Open results together, hanging out on the beach, listening to the announcements through social media. Starting from 9th place they waited, Southern Arkansas University was announced 4th and Pratt excitement grew. The University of Texas at Dallas earned 3rd, and still PCC had not been named. When 2nd place was announced, the team from  PCC went ballistic! They were the only community college up against DII colleges that made the top 10. PCC was 2nd in the National Cheerleading Association’s National Championship Competition, losing only to a 10-year experienced cheer team from Lindenwood University.

Third-year PCC cheerleader and super sophomore Samantha DeFord of Wichita Falls, Texas, said that being part of the cheer transformation in Pratt has been nothing short of amazaing.

PCC super sophomore Sami DeFord kisses the trophy her cheer team won in national competition earlier this month in Florida.

“I’ve seen the program grow extremely since Coach Shae Napier has come to PCC,” DeFord said. “My freshman year at PCC I wasn’t a part of the cheer program, I remember seeing only four cheerleaders standing on the floor and I had a gut feeling I needed to go speak to coach about joining the team. This is now my third year here at PCC and second year as a cheerleader. It is absolutely crazy all the accomplishments coach and my fellow teammates have achieved. I’m extremely excited to see all the amazing things that the cheer program will do in the future, with a coach like Shae there is no doubt in my mind that the program will only get better and grow from here. This is just the beginning for PCC Cheer.” 

Under the direction of Napier, the cheerleading program at PCC has attracted athletes from all walks of life, level of experience, background and parts of the country. 

Freshman Stephanie Kerst (Kansas City, Kans.) said she has cheered competitively for eight years and the PCC program  helped her transition from being away from family as well create a new one here in Pratt. 

“On the mat those teammates are your family and I could not be prouder,” Kerst said.

Freshman Hailey Curran from Stony Point, New York said she appreciated the differences between big city life and the role she now plays at Pratt.

“I have been cheering for 13 years,” Curran said. “The main difference between PCC and New York is that here I was flyer (the one who get tossed in the air!) as opposed to my experience as a base in New York. This team has felt more like a family. This has been a new experience and getting second place at nationals in Daytona was amazing.” 

In-state athlete Adalynn Wells, of Spearville, Kans. said she has no regrets about choosing to cheer at PCC.

“I came to Pratt with pretty much next to nothing in terms of cheer skills,” Wells said. “Getting to go to NCA Nationals was absolutely amazing. It was an experience that will be seared into my brain forever.”

Some cheerleaders on the 2020-2021 squad are dual athletes, benefitting from other programs a PCC as well.

Samantha DeFord, Jallen Sullivan, Alexia Torres are softball players as well as cheerleaders. Lexi Marshall, hawnee, Kans. is a performing arts enthusiast and Encore performer.

“There isn’t a good steppingstone from high school to college-level cheer but cheering at PCC has given me the confidence and the skill set to continue to grow as an athlete,” Marshall said. “I now have the skill set that will help me as I continue to a four-year school, it puts me in a good spot where I can continue to learn.” 

Pratt local and transfer  student Madison Adams said she was thrilled to be part of this group that has gained so much in terms of building a solid program at PCC.

“Growing in this town I never saw myself cheering and I never saw them accomplishing this,” Adams said. “I am absolutely blown away at the growth and development of this program! I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of it all. If I had to use one word it would be ‘wow!’”

Noah Eck, also a Pratt native, traveled with the cheer team as the sound master.

“Knowing what the program was before coach Napier came along and how far it has come in the course of just two years is purely phenomenal,” Eck said. This has been the highlight of my time here.” 

New York choreographer and cheer genius DeVaughn James Hopkins worked with Napier and the PCC cheerleaders to polish the routines and stunts. Napier said she was blessed to work with such experts and grateful for the hard work and determination of her squad.

“Where I see this program in the next three to five years is with many more national titles and recognition to its name, continuing to change the lives of every athlete,” Napier said. “I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to coach these athletes and be a part of their growth as athletes and individuals, as well as coach a nationally competitive team that has brought a lot of pride and excitement back to the program, institution and community.” 

To see action pictures from the event, visit http://actionmoments.com/search.php?cf=NB&CI=104&NB=10