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Shooting for five straight

With her lips pressed together, Weber State University’s Kaylee Overby presses her palms on the shoulders of two of her teammates. Stepping onto a web of arms, Overby keeps one leg off. Like a trampoline, the men lift Overby up and down several times before she plants her second foot in, committing to the jump.

The Wildcat&squot;s cheer team line up for kick off with their "W&squot;s" up high. (Bella Torres / The Signpost)
The Wildcats cheer team line up for kick-off with their "W's" up high. (Bella Torres / The Signpost)

Suspended in the air, Overby performs a backflip at the peak of the launch. Splitting her legs apart, she spins on her way down as her teammates catch her.

Overby posted a video of this launch on TikTok, where it received nearly 573,000 likes. A talented athlete, she competes alongside the prestigious Weber State spirit squad, who’ve proved they’re far more than just sideline performers for other sporting events.

After coming back from a year with no competitions due to the pandemic, the Wildcats finished best overall at the national collegiate cheer and dance championships in 2021 at Daytona Beach, Florida, scoring a 98.507. This marked Weber State’s fourth title-winning year in a row for the advanced, large co-ed group event.

Coach Summer Willis, who joined the program in 1998, is the foundation for Weber State’s winning reputation. Taking talent from across the country, Willis’ spirit squad went to their first national championship in 2009, remaining a solid team ever since.

Alongside Willis is dance coach Erica Williams, who helped lead Weber State’s dance team to their hip-hop national title in 2021.

The Wildcat’s ability to compete has drawn the attention of top athletes from around the nation. Gabi Butler, star of the Netflix series “Cheer,” came to Weber State in October.

Spirit squad member Anuhea Keene also decided to transfer to Weber State, coming from the University of Kentucky. Keene is entering her third year on the squad.

“I chose Weber because of the family atmosphere,” Keene said. “The scholarships are really good and the team is really, really, really talented. It was a full team of people that I wanted to be around.”

Keene isn’t the only squad member to transfer from the University of Kentucky. From Vancouver, Washington, Michael Androsov, affectionately known as “Boosh,” saw Willis’ vision and headed to Weber State.

“Weber was a transition from my previous school,” Androsov said. “There were a lot of things going on down there, and I just didn’t want to stay for the downfall of that program. Summer Willis provided me with her vision of what she wanted to do and what skills she wanted to improve on for the next year, and I was really excited about that. She kept her promise. That’s why I came here.”

The Weber State University Spirit Squad performs at the Davis Conference Center on August 6, 2021 with Coach Summer Willis cheering them on, front and center.
The Weber State University Spirit Squad performs at the Davis Conference Center on Aug. 6 with coach Summer Willis cheering them on front and center. Photo credit: Weber State University

As the spirit squad’s reputation grows, so do their opportunities. Nine Wildcats were selected for the USA national co-ed premier team.

During the video-entry round of the college cheerleading and dance team national championship event for partner stunts, three spirit squad groups were not only invited, but held the top three slots. Molly McLoed and Kollin Cockrell’s routine was first place with a score of 95. Elsa Hassett and Matthew Torres were right on their heels with a score of 94.5, while Katherine Abela and Androsov finished in third with a score of 93.

A major part of Weber State’s sports program, the spirit squad has received national attention through social media. Overby’s TikTok video previously mentioned has helped her amass nearly 50,000 followers and over one million likes.

Some of her squad mates have gained an incredible following on Instagram as well. Abela, for example, has over 42,000 followers on the app, and Keene has nearly 30,000. The Weber State cheer account itself has over 16,000 followers.

The spirit squad not only does their part for the school, but also Ogden. Working with the junior Wildcats spirit squad, the team holds clinics frequently to teach children cheer techniques.

During the upcoming 2022 national championships, the Wildcats will compete with a small co-ed team as well as a large one, each in separate divisions with different rules. This is the first year Weber State has split into two squads.

At the events, Willis will look to talented performers like Nolan Wilcock, the three-year spirit squad veteran from Alaska. Wilcock previously attended Utah State before becoming a Wildcat.

“I’m on the small coed team this year,” Wilcock said. “Nationals are coming up in about two weeks, and we’re going to be ready to show them who’s boss.”

The bar was set high during last year’s competitions, and the expectations are different this year according to Androsov. Androsov said the spirit squad needs to be humble if they want success.

Weber State University's Mens Basketball team plays Utah State University at the Dee Events Center on December 15, 2021.
Weber State University's cheer and dance teams celebrate on the sidelines on Dec. 15. Photo credit: Weber State University

“We won last year, but this is a new year, new people,” Androsov said. “The goal is to be successful, but we have to take it as a completely new year.”

Although this is a new year, Wilcock said the spirit squad is ready to meet the high standards it has set for itself.

“The most pressure is what we put on ourselves and how we perform,” Wilcock said. “We don’t necessarily look at who we are competing against and what they’re doing. What matters is what we do and what we put out there and that we are proud of the routines that we do. There’s not a lot of pressure. We did what we were supposed to do last year, and this year we fully expect to do the same.”

The 2022 National Championships will be held April 6-10 in Daytona Beach, Florida, in the Bandshell and Ocean Center.

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About the Contributor
Rayshaun Baker-Lynch
Rayshaun Baker-Lynch, Asst. sports editor