OSU Cheer and Dance looks towards change

OSU Cheer and Dance first-year flyer Cayla Basta-Mesenbrink performs a ‘liberty’ stunt at an open-gym practice while being held up by her teammates.

Jarred Bierbrauer, OMN Sports Chief

After multiple head coach changes and negotiating with the Oregon State Athletics Department, the Oregon State Cheer and Dance team is looking to improve their program and wishes to become more involved with the university as a sport.

Unlike the 16 official NCAA intercollegiate sports at Oregon State University, the OSU Cheer and Dance team does not have access to the P. Wayne Sports Performance Center and does not receive an invite to the annual athlete awards ceremony, though they would like to, despite being fully funded by the Athletics Department. 

Meg Boye, a junior flyer on the co-ed stunt team, said she wishes the team would have access to the training facility and be invited, or included in more athlete surrounded events. Boye added that the team should be viewed more as a sport rather than a tool for marketing.

“We want to train and we want to be good, but with what we’re given it’s really hard,” Boye said.

Paul Thorpe, who is entering his second year as the cheer and dance head coach, attributed all of the problems to past coaches rather than OSU Athletics. However, Thorpe declined to comment on why previous coaches are at fault. Thorpe added that he has been working restlessly to provide resources such as treatment and equipment.

Since stepping in as the head coach of the program in 2018, Thorpe has saved money from the OSU Athletics budget and donations to hopefully provide a treatment center for the Cheer and Dance team, as well as gather resources not previously provided to them such as access to trainers or ice. 

“There are things we don’t get, but I have worked non-stop to get things ourselves,” Thorpe said. “I have worked my butt off and my main focus is getting us, and especially my athletes, everything we don’t get,” Thorpe said via email.

According to Steve Fenk, OSU Associate Athletic Director, the athletic department covers injuries that are a result of practice or performance of the team members.

“The cheer and dance team have access to the medical staff at the Samaritan Health Services adjacent to Reser Stadium,” Fenk said via email. “I have also personally witnessed our trainers, in my tenure, assist cheerleaders and dance members if an injury occurs during an event.”

Currently, the major issue that the OSU Cheer and Dance team highlighted is not being able to access to the P. Wayne Valley Sports Performance Center, a $16 million facility built in 2008 specifically for training Oregon State athletes. 

Deleena Saechao, a second-year flyer on the co-ed team, said access to the facility is a matter of safety more than anything.

“We are responsible for their safety and lives when we stunt,” Saechao said. “It doesn’t make sense that we don’t have access to a tool that helps us be more strong/safe. With everything we do for the university, I think this is the least they could do for us – provide us with the ability to train to be safe.”

According to multiple members of the team, an athletics representative told them they would be ‘too distracting’ to enter the building. Fenk said he was not aware of this.

“The Sports Performance Center is reserved for over 500 student athletes who use that facility – schedules are very tight at the facility,” Fenk said via email.

Additionally, the Oregon State Cheer and Dance team has expressed that they would like to attend ‘The Benny’s’, an annual award ceremony focused towards celebrating OSU sports and athletes, as they have yet to be invited in the past. Fenk said that the event is coordinated by student athletes, and is for student athletes who compete at the collegiate level.

According to Saechao, being invited to the Benny’s is important because a large portion of the cheer and dance team’s job is to support athletic programs.

“We would be grateful if the Benny’s would have us, or our captains at least, attend,” Saechao said. “We aren’t asking for recognition or awards, but to be a part of the atmosphere would mean the world to us.”

Saechao added it is ‘ridiculous’ that the department has avoided having a conversation with the OSU Cheer and Dance program for competing as a team.

According to Fenk, there are a few institutions that sponsor Acrobatics and Tumbling at the NCAA level, there are no true sponsored cheer and dance competitions for OSU to participate, though they have taken part in some events in the past.

Boye, like multiple other members of the team, used the University of Oregon Cheerleading program as a reference for what they’d want the program to become, citing their access to academic and training resources. 

“I know [UO] gets amenities but don’t compete,” Boye said. “They don’t get scholarships, but they get access to the weight rooms and tutoring, and all of that stuff that we don’t get.”

The Baro attempted to contact UO Cheerleading Head Coach Dana Lockett, but Lockett declined to make any additional comments beyond stating that the two programs cannot be compared because they’re so different.

According to Saechao, she really wants to see OSU Athletic’s relationship with Thorpe change.

“They asked for program reset, and by hiring someone out of state – they should take his opinion and visions for the program with much more severity and urgency,” Saechao said.

On April 30, the university hosted its first annual ‘Dam Proud Day,’ an event focused towards raising funds for students, programs and initiatives throughout Oregon State. The OSU Cheer and Dance team was invited to fundraise for their program with athletics, which was a step in the right direction according to Saechao. 

For Dam Proud Day, the team was able to collect $9,700 in donations. According to Saechao, OSU Athletics can better support the Cheer and Dance program by supporting the team’s desire to compete and to have a meeting with them to discuss the matters. Fenk added that the department was excited to have the cheer team be a part of the event. 

“The cheer and dance teams are considered to be important contributors to the game day and event experiences for our fans,” Fenk said via email. “The cheer team has been a part of most, if not all, signing day events, as well as numerous other out-of-competition events.”

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