The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack cheerleading team is heading to the 2023 World Cup Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida Jan. 13-15. Team member Emily Berg is from Salmon Arm, Sneha Suniara is from Vernon and coach Meaghan Blakely is from Armstrong. (Contributed)

The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack cheerleading team is heading to the 2023 World Cup Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida Jan. 13-15. Team member Emily Berg is from Salmon Arm, Sneha Suniara is from Vernon and coach Meaghan Blakely is from Armstrong. (Contributed)

Shuswap, North Okanagan athletes take their cheers to World Cup championships

Cheerleading team from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops to compete with world’s best in Florida

The WolfPack cheerleading team from Thompson Rivers University (TRU) out of Kamloops is heading to the University World Cup Cheerleading Championships in Florida later this month, hoping to launch the school’s cheer program to new heights.

On the team are Emily Berg from Salmon Arm and Sneha Suniara from Vernon.

In March 2022, the WolfPack won first and second place in two different divisions at the BC Sport Cheer Provincial Championships. With those impressive performances, the team earned a bid to compete at the 2023 World Cup, which is an international event hosted in Orlando, Florida. The competition takes place Jan. 13 to 15, 2023.

The WolfPack has 28 team members and the entire team will be competing in the Game Day division. Twenty teammates will also compete in the Premier division.

The Game Day category is more traditional, said coach Meaghan Blakely, who comes from Armstrong. It honours the school and its traditions, using fight songs and embodying the values of each school. Game day also has cheerleaders holding pom poms and props and the focus is moving in unison.

Premier style is more modernized with different music and fast-paced, aggressive choreography, said Blakely. The athletes perform more intricate and highly difficult stunts in the air.

“We as coaches had to make sure the athletes can execute the skills required and be competitive but also safe,” said Blakely. “We are still a very young program, going up against teams who have competed at this level for years.”

Berg and Suniara are competing together in the Game Day division and have only short histories with cheer before this point.

Suniara started at TRU in September of 2019 and joined the WolfPack cheer team a year later, with no previous cheer experience. Berg’s introduction into the world of cheer came in 2022, her first year with TRU’s team.

“I’m really excited to go,” said Suniara. “We’ve all worked really hard and supported each other through this. Working and learning new things, new stunts; I don’t even know how to describe it.”

Berg also expressed excitement about the competition.

“It really shows how much effort the entire team has put into this one sport and how much commitment,” she said. “To get that bid was so big and then to actually get to go is even bigger and it feels so good that we get to go.”

The World Cup competition was cancelled in 2021 due to the pandemic. The WolfPack had a bid to compete in that year, but since the event didn’t go ahead, the last time TRU competed in Florida was in January 2020.

In 2022, it still wasn’t hosted as international travel in January of last year, when the competition would be held, was still uncertain. TRU hasn’t had athletes compete at the high level the international World Cup demands in two years.

Blakely commends the athletes training and performing with the team currently because they have gone through a difficult few years.

“We have athletes now that have gone from training when they couldn’t stunt, couldn’t have any physical contact at all,” said Blakely. “It’s going to be a huge payoff to not only compete but travel internationally and see the state teams, like the really big names down in that States, and be a part of what they’ve been working so long for. It’s really rewarding for the majority of athletes we have now who joined us during the pandemic and are finally going to get that reward for sticking it out and showing up and putting in that effort instead of just throwing in the towel.”

The team’s fund-raising since March has raised about $20,000 of the $80,000 trip costs, and the rest is paid by the athletes in addition to their regular season expenses.

“Regardless of our placement, we want to be proud of what we put out on the floor and prove that we are a contender to watch out for. We are the underdogs and are looking to do our province and university proud,” said Blakely.

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rebecca.willson@saobserver.net

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