By Dani Jackson
College students celebrate the start of the basketball season during Midnight Madness, a pep rally which provides players the opportunity to showcase their first official practice. While Madness is celebrated on college campuses nationwide, Rider stands alone in its festivity of Midnight MAACness, with a night of dancing, dunking and fun to celebrate the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and ring in the upcoming basketball season.
On Oct. 12, students piled into Alumni Gym to support both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Following a Game of Thrones-themed introduction, Rider mascot, AJ, was seated on the iron throne at the start of the night. After AJ’s entrance, both teams’ players and coaching staffs were cheered onto the court.
“I enjoyed MAACness because it’s a great way to get involved on campus and become excited about the basketball season,” said sophomore elementary education major Jenna Dean. “The night is an opportunity to cheer on your fellow students and find your sense of Rider pride.
Students jumped and celebrated each player with their personal light-up swords given to them at the door. A sea of red moved rhythmically to the beat of each song.
The fun-filled night continued with a cheerleading performance, three-point shooting contest, dunk contest, crowning of the Cranberry Court and a performance by the Rider dance team.
Arishia Stewart, a member of the cheerleading team and freshman secondary education major, shined during MAACness. Her role as the main base on the team is crucial to the safety of the flyer, the person thrown up into the air.
“Their life is in our hands,” Stewart said.
To be able to perform such death-defying stunts, hours of practice are needed to ensure perfection.
Having practiced every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for four hours, the cheerleaders were prepared for the event. Their performance was full of high-flying flips and cartwheels, signifying that their hard work paid off.
“I watched this all happen, but now I’m a part of it,” said Stewart.
The cheerleaders weren’t the only performers to wow the crowd. Besides the athletes, the Rider dance team amazed the audience.
With their near ten-minute performance, the dancers struck awe in all attendees. Junior elementary education major Brenna Damminger had been preparing with the dance team from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday for roughly three weeks prior to MAACness.
Damminger was ready to perform for her second year on the team. The all-female squad came out confident and were the perfect finale for such an incredible night.
“I believe that our efforts truly paid off,” Damminger said. “We performed as a unit, while still infusing our own personality within our dancing.”
The performances of both the cheer and dance teams left a favorable impression on many audience members, proving that their hard work did indeed pay off.
“My favorite part of MAACness was watching both the cheer and dance teams,” said junior criminal justice major Mike Carro. “Our basketball team is renowned for their accomplishments but it is good to see the talent of many others who might not get the same recognition.”
Dean thought the same way.
“My favorite part of MAACness was definitely watching the dancers,” she said. “I know a couple of people on the team and that they worked super hard on their performance. It is so awesome to see their hard work pay off, and it was super impressive.”