Success. A word that can mean so many different things to so many different people. In the sports world, success can be judged in a variety of ways including: how successful a team was during the regular season; making a conference tournament; being ranked in the top 25; or placing in the top-ten or twenty during a national tournament.

For the Dickinson State cheerleading team, led by head coach Cebe Schneider and assistant coaches Dakia Brown and Kierra Schneider, the squad did just about all of those things in just their third year of competing in the NAIA.

“Cheer is becoming more widely followed and supported – both nationally and worldwide,” noted Cebe Schneider, DSU’s head cheerleading coach. “DSU instituted its Competitive Cheer program at an ideal time.  It is interesting and challenging to develop not only a new sport at a college level, but also one that is emerging and is still in an infant stage in terms of a collegiate sport.”

At DSU, we have two types of cheerleading: sideline and competitive. 

Our sideline team can be seen on the sidelines at football and basketball games, leading the crowd in cheers to support and motivate our Blue Hawk student-athletes. Sideline cheer requires athleticism, hard work, determination, and commitment. One cannot perform challenging sideline skills without all of these.  Sideline cheerleaders use signs, megaphones, and pom poms to engage and rally the crowd. 

Competitive cheer is very different.  Competitive Cheer is competed on a specific size cheer mat in front of a panel of judges, which includes a head judge, panel judges, and a technical judge.  The routine is designed and carried out utilizing a rubric that sets the skills allowed and the degree of difficulty, with point values assigned to six different categories including: stunting, pyramids, basket tosses, standing tumbling, running tumbling, and jumps.

“There’s no question that the DSU cheer team has a special mix of talent both on and off the mat. We are unique in both our size and location compared to other teams who earned a chance to compete on the national floor.  We are especially fortunate not only in the athletes we have, but also in our coaching staff,” Schneider noted.

We are justifiably proud of the competitive success of DSU’s newly minted cheer team. In the just completed competitive season, Blue Hawk Cheer was dominant during regular season duals and tournaments, repeating success from the previous season.

The repeated success continued in the postseason. The Hawks qualified to compete at nationals via a strong regional finish, for the second straight year. In addition, for the second straight season, DSU Cheer finished fourth at the 2023 NAIA National Championships. Notably, DSU was also the highest ranked public school at nationals.

Yes, you read that right. In the second and third years of its existence, the Blue Hawk Cheer team was in the top five nationally. This is a remarkable start for a new program!

Even more remarkably, due to injuries throughout this season, your DSU cheer team did this with only nine members on the floor. Most of the teams they competed against had a roster of 19; the most a team can have competing on the floor is 20. Our team might have been small, but it was tough.

“There are nine mats and we have nine athletes. It is far more difficult for nine athletes to cover nine mats than it is for nineteen or fifteen athletes.  The judges notice the increased difficulty our team has just by virtue of our numbers,” said Coach Schneider.  “Additionally, each of our athletes performs a variety of the required skills.  Teams with more athletes may utilize athletes on the floor for only specialized skills. Due to injuries this past season, we didn’t have that luxury with only nine on the mat.”

The magnificent nine are: Brendan Johnson (Captain), Dalton Herbst, Alycia Winters, Alexis Lefor, Teandra Schneider, Madison Luczak, Aleigha Villars, Marisa Tafoya Borr, and Lexis Hargrave.

Even though the team placed fourth in back-to-back years, an excellent achievement, the ceiling is high for this new competitive program at DSU. Between the students, faculty, staff, and community supporters cheering on our Hawks, it is truly an awesome experience being at games with the cheer team on the sidelines or watching them compete competitively. The Hawks thank you for your support.

 “We are in a good place and we want to ensure that everyone knows that we are doing everything possible to deserve the faith that our supporters have placed in us and to make our community, supporters and University proud,” stated Schneider.

Hawks are up!