The Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (WNCAA) kicks off its cheerleading competition at 11 a.m., Feb. 17, at Makati Coliseum in Barangay La Paz.
Teams from participating schools will vie for top spots in the midgets, juniors and seniors divisions.
Centro Escolar University’s (CEU) Pep Squad returns not just to defend its crown in the seniors division, but also to aim for an unprecedented four-peat, having bagged the championship title for three years in a row.
As the team works to achieve its goal, CEU Pep Squad head coach Vincent Raphael Manarang recalls its journey to victory and what it took to get there.
From dancer to coach
He understands the stress and pressure, as well as the sense of relief of competition. “Dito ako nag-college,” says Maranang, who majored in nursing at CEU. “The team was formed in 2004 and I started as a dancer in 2005. I became assistant coach in 2009, then head coach in 2013. So I’ve seen everything there is to see in this team—its improvements, failures, everything.”
Year after year, the squad members worked doubly hard, spending long hours in practice to perfect their routines while maintaining good grades in class.
Winning brought its own set of challenges. Manarang says that with each opportunity to defend its title, the team members felt pressure mounting. Climbing to the top was one thing, but staying on top was another, as opponents tried their best to upgrade their own routines.
Manarang and the team responded with well-researched routines and the commitment to turn their moves into an engaging and unified cheerdance.
When the girls had to perform a routine with a ballroom theme during one competition, Manarang admits they were discouraged at first. None of the girls had a background in ballroom dancing, and they had never performed a cheer routine that focused on dance.
Still, no one could tell as the CEU Pep Squad displayed pure grace and rhythm on competition day. “It was crazy when I saw them dancing, smiling, having fun. After being intimidated by the routine, they finally owned it,” said the coach.
It isn’t easy being a student, more so a student-athlete— whose attention and time are divided between the demands of academics and sports.
“Here in CEU, we are very heavy on academics. Even if the girls are part of the varsity team, they still have to go through the same workload and academics like everyone else,” explains Manarang. “Even after our three-peat, during the recognition day of my dancers, professors didn’t want to excuse them [from classes].”
To aspiring athletes and cheer dancers, Manarang advises them to never stop dreaming. As much as talent is important, discipline, heart and drive are the qualities that will get you places.
“Walang imposible. If you want something, you need to push yourself, even with all the challenges. In the end, these challenges only make success sweeter,” says Manarang.