By Olivia Nicoletti
Although Rider students love to share their spirits for their university, nobody can top the pride and dedication Rider’s cheer team has during the basketball season.
Collectively, the team puts in a minimum of nine hours of practice every week; these cheerleaders give a lot of their time to learn how to effectively bring energy to every game.
After a year without cheerleaders performing during games, the university was happy to bring back the team for the 2021-2022 winter season.
The 17 females and one male who make up the team were excited to get back into the groove of things after missing out on a full season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Angelina Gallagher, a sophomore elementary education major, joined the team in September of 2021 but said she wished to have been recruited in the fall of 2020 when she was a freshman.
She expressed her sadness toward the year she had missed when she could have been creating bonds with the girls on the team. The basketball season continued on but the cheerleaders were left behind, which Gallagher described as a “horrible feeling.”
Jayme Schneider, a junior elementary education major, got sent home during the coronavirus outbreak amidst her first season on the team in 2020.
Similar to others, she felt that Rider had pushed aside the cheerleaders due to every other sport getting the advantage to practice during the pandemic the following year.
It did not just affect their performance but the team as a whole was stripped of the chance to bond with each other. When the cheer team returned it had to make up for lost time, unlike any other sport.
“It was hard to get back into the commitment of it,” Schnieder said. “I wasn’t around my team as much, so it was kind of hard because we had all new members. It was hard to make connections again and remember what the season used to be like.”
Ayanna Wells-Crudup, a sophomore secondary education major, tried out with Gallagher in the fall of 2021, where she earned her spot on the team.
The cheer team is an outlet for Wells-Crudup; however, before she came to campus, she only knew one girl on the team virtually.
She met everyone during the first practice and said that those friendships are something that she missed out on freshman year.
Wells-Crudup said, “I’m glad that I got to join this year, it kind of made up for lost time.”
The three team members expressed their gratitude for the seniors who act as the glue that holds this team together.
Consisting of two captains and two co-captains, Gallagher said the seniors led the team “in the right direction and made sure [the new members] got taught everything.”
Victoria Costleigh, a senior psychology major, has been a part of the cheer team since her freshman year. She has taken on the senior duties of leading an example for the underclassman.
“We are kind of like assistant coaches in a sense. If any of the girls have questions for us and don’t want to ask the coach, we can be there [for them to] talk to,” Costleigh said. “I feel like a lot of the younger girls look up to us and ask for help if they had a situation or didn’t know how to do a cheer or dance.”
Members of the team bond the most during their travels to the MAAC tournament at the end of their season.
Costleigh said her favorite memories are from the tournament because the cheer team is usually only allowed to perform at home games.
During the game on Nov. 9 at the MAAC tournament, the men’s basketball team scored the winning shot against No. 1 team Iona within the last second. The cheerleaders shared the excitement and pride with the team.
Gallagher said, “We were all standing at the edge of the court waiting to run on and it was so exciting. A couple people were crying and we were all hugging each other. There’s nothing like it, I can’t even describe it; it was amazing.”
She continued, “all the hard work, sweat and tears are worth it for moments like these.”