PSU cheer strives to compete with the best

Half a day of skywriting. A Honda Civic. 39 PS4s bundled with The Last of Us. 40 indoor ping-pong tables. 691 bottles of Crown Royal. 1,667 copies of Jurassic Park. 2,000 classic Moleskin notebooks. 2,222 packs of frozen IKEA meatballs. 6,677 Keno scratch cards.

What do all these things have in common? Each of these collections can be yours for the paltry sum of $20,000.

But something else can be added to this list: the dream of 19 student athletes and their coach Andrea Larkins. The fundraiser goal of $20,000 would fly the Portland State cheer team to Daytona Beach, Florida, in April to compete in the National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate Championship.

No brunch for the committed

The cheer team is working hard to attain this goal. Next Sunday at 8 a.m., when most are rubbing the sleep out of their eyes and considering hollandaise, know that the cheer team is tumbling, performing back handsprings, roundoffs, and basket tosses. They practice every Sunday morning for three hours. This means no partying on Saturday nights. This means no bottomless mimosa brunches.

Because PSU is a commuter school with a high percentage of older adult students, it might seem difficult to recognise how much work goes into being a true cheer team.

After the three-hour-long practice, the team goes to weightlifting for another hour. They practice after the games as well. The team members also go to the gym on their own, most daily.

Upon reaching their fundraising goal, the PSU cheer team will be the only university in Oregon participating in the national competition. If they don’t reach the fundraiser goal by March 1, they aren’t going. There isn’t a hidden cheer fund or state money or even a cheer scholarship set up at our school.

As coach Larkins simply said, “If we don’t raise the money, we’re not going.”

Meals not included

What does the $20,000 pay for? The team would be flying to Florida on Tuesday, April 7 ($462 each) and staying in Jacksonville the first night. The money pays for their flight, the shuttle to Daytona, their hotel stay and registration in the competition. Larkins hopes that they can raise a little extra money for food for the team, otherwise the student athletes will subsist on continental breakfasts.

The NCA championship is the only national cheer competition, and the only competition a team must qualify for. Any team can compete in the American Showcase in Anaheim, California, every year by simply signing up. Most teams attend a cheer camp in Las Vegas where they try and earn their qualification to compete in Daytona. This may be easy if you already live in Vegas, but for PSU cheer, it would be far too expensive to attend a camp without the guarantee of competing.

There is another way that teams can qualify for nationals without going to the camp in Vegas—to submit a video showcasing the team’s skills. These videos are judged by a point system in order to determine acceptance into the competition. Having qualified, Larkins and her team are confident in their ability to compete on a national stage.

The competitions in Daytona are split by division and school size, so PSU will be competing against Division I athletes. However, each team is limited to no more than 20 members. Having lost about 30 percent of their team over winter break, there was an element of anxiety as the competition date approached. Though smaller teams can still compete against the larger teams, the larger teams do have an advantage, so the bigger
the better.

A new dawn for PSU Cheer

The cheerleading season wraps up at the end of April, and tryouts for the approaching school year are immediately after in the month of May. Waiting for tryouts to roll around was simply out of the question, so it was up to the team to recruit new members so that they could make their dreams of Daytona a reality. Recruiting in class, the team was able to find a lot of student athletes who had simply missed tryouts but had been on cheer teams in high school. The cheer team is now back up to 19 members and will be more evenly matched at the competition.

Larkins has really turned the program around since she began coaching just this school year.

“I’m coming into a program that didn’t really have a huge presence in the community so we’re trying to build that,” Larkins said.

Larkins graduated from Hawaii Pacific on a full ride scholarship for cheer. There is not currently a scholarship program at PSU specific to cheer, and this is something that Larkins would like to address and bring to the athletic department’s attention in the coming years.

She hopes that competing in Daytona, and doing well, will give the administration the proof they need to increase funding to the sport as well as starting the motion for cheerleading scholarships here at PSU. As of now, there is no pay or scholarship for our cheer team. The members are responsible for $175 toward their uniforms and equipment, and fundraising pays for the rest.


In addition to the three hours on Sunday mornings, the weightlifting and hours spent at the gym, the team also practices
Tuesday and Thursday nights, from 9–11 p.m. after basketball games.

At the end of each of their practices the team gathers together for a recap of how the practice went. They do this by going over their “happies” and “crappies,” essentially the positives and the negatives from that practice.

“Crappies?” Larkins offered. Athletes chime in with complaints of having to be told the same thing again and again. No team member seems to be blaming others; they’re just acknowledging the shared difficulty. Larkins nodded in agreement to this. “I’m not guessing when I tell you guys what to do.”

“Happies?” she asked. A chorus of glad faces beam. It’s noted that everyone seems really dedicated. It was also stated that the stunts were performed better than the previous practice, that the team feels cohesive and that they are excelling.

Larkins discussed up to the topic of fundraising for Daytona. You can tell how badly the student athletes want to compete, and know that they can win. Larkins reinforced that they need to turn in money soon. The administration needs proof that fundraising is occurring.

“They need to see progress so they feel confident in our ability,” Larkins said. She added that she’s convinced they’ll succeed, she feels confident in their ability, but the administration needs proof.

Valkyries fly TO DAYTONA

Right now the team’s main fundraiser is the sale of cheer team posters, five bucks a pop.

It will take a lot of calendars to reach $20,000 but as Larkins said, “Those $5 will add up,” and they will.

Thankfully, the calendars are not the only way to donate. The team is also accepting donations through DreamFund and a SquareMarket account under PSUCHEER, where one could buy a calendar online, donate or buy a long-sleeve shirt showing some PSU pride.