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The Battalion

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Headed for Nationals

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Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Cheer

With Nationals in sight, the Texas A&M cheer team prepares to travel to Daytona Beach, Fla., looking for its first title since 2019. 

This week, the Texas A&M cheer squad travels to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the 2022 NCA College Nationals to compete head-to-head against 40 teams for the championship title.
The dedicated group of cheerleaders has its eyes on bringing home the top prize. Texas A&M cheer won back-to-back national championships in 2018 and 2019. As the squad has gone through final preparation to come home from Daytona Beach as champions, members reflected on the program traditions and the bonds created in the run-up to this year’s national competition.
“Hitting zero” is a term in cheerleading that refers to completing a routine where no stunts fell, every member landed their tumbling passes and no safety rules were violated. Every team’s goal is to hit zero at the national competition. The tenths of points for small deductions are what ultimately separate the national champions and the runner-up squad.
“At this point, we’re just mining for tenths,” senior squad President Marissa Ramsey said. “These are tenths of a point they could award us or take away from us, and hitting everything, of course, but we’ve pretty much gotten to that point already.”
At its last competition in Galveston, the squad received positive feedback from the judges’ panel and reminders to finish all of their skills with precision, head coach Atosha Rampy said.
“Which is really good because a lot of teams don’t have the chance to do that,” sophomore squad member Lariana Bustillos said. “It’s good that we’re there already.”
In addition to winning the national title, the A&M cheer squad has made a goal to set a new program record, Ramsey said.
“We’re trying to set our personal highest score in the intermediate division, which would also be one of the highest scores our division has ever seen,” Ramsey said. “The first year we won, we scored a 97.8, so we’re trying to get to a 98.”
Seniors Marissa Ramsey and Jordan Bourg are the only members currently on the squad who have experienced winning the national title. Ramsey said the squad lost nine seniors from the previous season but now has a large freshman class.
“The older girls took us in immediately, and there hasn’t been a separation between any of us,” freshman squad member Chloe Hacker said. “They really make sure that we know they value our opinion.”
The squad begins every practice with several traditions, including the Aggie War Hymn, the “Beat the Hell” yell and many other rituals special to the team. The tradition that A&M cheer holds nearest to its heart is the saying “prime time,” better known to the girls as an abbreviation in all caps, “PMRTME.” The meaning of the phrase is a squad secret, Ramsey said.
“PMRTME is all about the nature of our team and our program,” Ramsey said.
Bustillos described her freshman experience as hard work in the PMRTME tradition.
“Your whole first rookie season is all about earning letters one by one,” Bustillos said. “Each milestone that you hit, you get a new letter. I remember when I got my P, my R, my M, all of them. I look back on that now and realize that I really did earn those letters.”
Hacker explained the tradition brings together members during their first year on the squad.
“It helps build the rookie class and build the bond,” Hacker said. “We went on a scavenger hunt and got a letter from that. The scavenger hunt was all across campus, and we got to learn about the past A&M cheerleaders and did a lot of A&M traditions. We got in all of the ponds and went to the Century Tree. A&M has a lot of traditions, and the cheer team ties into them a lot, too.”
Another squad tradition is earning the right to take home the national championship banners from 2018 and 2019 by working hard during practice, Rampy said.
“Whoever had [the banner] at practice the day before will pick someone at practice they noticed worked really hard, and they just pass them around,” Rampy said. “This is to help them understand what they’re supposed to expect when they get to Daytona.”
Bustillos and junior squad member Hannah Cooper are two best friends who add to the team dynamic with their high energy.
“We try to bring as much positive energy as we can,” Cooper said. “I like to because, personally, I need it for myself. I can bring that energy, and it will help with other people, too. They feed off of it. Cheer, for me, isn’t everything. I like cheer, but I don’t like it that much. I do it for the people.”
The significance of family is valued much more in the A&M cheer program than the sport itself, Bustillos added.
The national collegiate competition is the highlight of every cheerleader’s career.
“I can’t even describe the feeling of running into the ocean after winning,” Ramsey said. “It’s insane. Whenever we won in 2019, it was pure shock. Our coach told us to be grateful for whatever position we get, and that we’re a family no matter what. Whenever they said our name, we felt like there was no way.”
Two years ago, the national competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year was all new because half of the team had never been to Daytona because of COVID[-19] the year before,” Bustillos said. “Last year, we were so confident that we were going to get first.”
Although the A&M cheer squad is an official all-girls intermediate competitive cheer team, they are not allowed to represent themselves as an official spirit organization of the university, according to the A&M cheer website. The squad does not perform at any athletic events.
Many people are unaware of the cheer program at A&M, Rampy said, something the squad would like to change.
“We don’t want to infringe on the traditions of A&M at all,” Ramsey said. “We totally respect that there are Yell Leaders at games. We are so happy with just being able to compete and represent the university. I just wish people would actually pay attention and support what we do.”
A&M Cheer receives a $4,000 allocation as a member of the Texas A&M Sports Club Association. The team raises the rest of its travel costs through fundraising events, Ramsey said.
“We do fundraising almost every weekend in the fall, which then takes away from practice time,” Ramsey said. “We would like funding or at least some help.”
Hacker added that raising money can spread the squad thin at times as they juggle being a full-time cheerleader and student.
Despite frustrations, Cooper and Bustillos agreed that fundraising creates an even stronger bond among the girls.
“We’re all doing it for the same goal,” Bustillos said. “We’re all doing it to get to Daytona, and we know that, so having that in mind makes us so much closer. We’re a very self-motivated squad.”
Cheer is key to coping with academic and life pressures, Bustillos said.
“So many people are always stressing about school, and cheer has always been a runaway for me,” Bustillos said. “I don’t have to worry about what’s going on outside of cheer.”
For Ramsey, Nationals will mark the end of her cheer career.
“My freshman year, I was an alternate, and I was frustrated my first semester,” Ramsey said. “But then I had a mindset switch. I thought to myself, ‘I’m an A&M cheerleader. How many people, No. 1 get to say they’re a college cheerleader, and No. 2 get to be a part of one of the most unique programs in the country?’
“I was talking to my mom about how I remembered when I wanted to drop out of college and quit cheer forever, and now I’m the squad president. You really just have to submerge yourself in the program.”
Texas A&M cheer will perform April 7-8 at the 2022 NCA College Nationals. On the first day, the team will perform for a preliminary score, and on the second day for a score in the finals performance. The two scores are averaged to receive a final competition score.
Detailed schedules and live stream instructions are posted on Varsity.com. Follow the A&M squad on Instagram @tamu_cheer.

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