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‘They rose to the challenge‘: Irish seniors lead cheer squad

| Friday, May 13, 2022

The structure of the Notre Dame cheerleading team put a lot of pressure on the senior class in 2021-2022. Many athletes joined the team late in freshman year. Head coach Delayna Myers and her squad spend much of the spring recruiting and holding open practices to fill their roster for the coming season. This means that it‘s not until sophomore year that many cheerleaders get their first experience. So when COVID decimated not only the spring of 2020, but most of the 2020-2021 season, the Irish lost valuable development time.

“The senior class and a couple of juniors were the only ones who had done a normal game day. That meant we relied heavily on senior leadership,” Myers said. “They rose to the challenge and understood the role that was expected of them to help get the rest of the team up to the speed.” 

On the team as a whole, Myers noted: “They totally developed a whole new skillset. It took us a little bit to get back into our groove, but given the circumstances, we accomplished what we set out to do.” 

It was quite the first full year back for the cheer team. Myers’ squad appeared on some of the biggest stages in collegiate sports. The football team played in the Fiesta Bowl. The men’s soccer team hosted three NCAA Tournament games and then played in the College Cup. Both basketball squads qualified for March Madness and played in three games. 

“I think that my group had a year of gratitude. They were so grateful for the experiences they were able to have and they were able to support our teams on the road,” Myers commented. “Some of their favorite memories, where they bond the most, are on those trips.”

Traveling around the country for these big events also highlighted the Irish leprechauns. The face of the program, four leprechauns represent Notre Dame every year. This year, three leprechauns graduate. Seniors Gabe Ramos and Alex Sampson depart the program, as does graduate student Pat Johnson. Johnson was a high-energy presence at football and men’s basketball games, while Ramos largely cheered at women’s basketball.

“They all played to their strengths in the role and showed other people that the role can really be for them,” Myers said. She went on to comment on their recruiting efforts to fill the next class of leprechauns.

“They did an incredible job of trying to find the best people and recruit the best people to take on the role after them. Without them participating in outreach and encouraging people to try out, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Myers highlighted Johnson in particular. The lone graduate student on the roster, Johnson led the program in the first year back from COVID.

“Pat has poured so much into this role and created certain processes and materials so that way the people that follow him can be successful in the role,” Myers said. 

However, the leadership didn’t stop with the leprechauns. Myers complimented her senior class as a whole for setting the stage for a healthy program moving forward.

“The senior class is a big class. Having so many strong leaders with such a high skill level helped the underclassmen have something to work towards and to know what the standard of our program is,” he said.

Now the seniors wrap up their final spring with the program, putting the finishing touches on another strong recruiting season. They’ll pass on their leadership roles to the junior  — now rising senior class, — a transition that Myers is excited for.

“Our junior class has a lot of good energy, they’re very community-driven. I really look forward to seeing how that continues to positively impact our team culture,” Myers said.

After two tumultuous years, the cheer squad made a full and triumphant return over the 2021-2022 academic year. With a lot of pressure on their shoulders, the seniors rose to the occasion. They represented the blue and gold on big stages and set up the program for future success.

“They took this year as if nothing was guaranteed and enjoyed every moment,” Myers said.

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About Aidan Thomas

A senior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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