Woman power was on full display at the cheerleading competition of the 46th annual Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (WNCAA) held Feb. 20 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“Strong Women, Strong Nation” was the competition’s theme this year. The flips, pyramids, routines and pompoms of the teams induced the excitement of the live audience.
Costumes proudly indicating the participating schools’ colors, as well as the loud screaming from students and family members, could not take the attention away from the sheer impact of the difficult movements of the competing teams.
By the time the competition proper started at 1 p.m., the hot Rizal stadium was filled with screaming well-wishers and booming school bands.
The competition had three divisions: college, high school, and grade school.
The senior division opened the first segment of the program. Despite fierce competition, it succeeded—Centro Escolar University (CEU) topped the results; University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) finished second; and Miriam College placed third.
CEU team captain Gel Magcaleng said the team trained daily despite the demands of academics. She attributed the team’s success to the members’ resilience. “It is also important to note that our school has supported us all the way,” she said.
It’s not easy
In the junior division, St. Paul College Pasig (SPCP) emerged as champion; Miriam College, second; and Saint Pedro Poveda College (SPPC), third.
“It’s a blessing and we’re very thankful,” said SPCP junior team captain Gabe Santos. “We come to compete not for the prize, but to make our hard work in training pay off and to make our parents, our coach and our school proud.”
Santos noted that the team had trained almost daily since September, or five months before the competition. Every team member prepared not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
“We’re all just happy that we hit the routine the way we wanted to. It really made us feel like all that we’ve been through was worth it,” she added.
To future cheerleaders, she advised, “When it gets tough, you have to remember why you’re here in the first place. You have to remember that you aren’t the only one going through difficulties and that you have a family (on and off the mats) that will always be there to support you. More than the ‘hustle, hit and never quit’ attitude, you need to keep in mind that the routine won’t be complete until you pour your heart into it and genuinely enjoy what you’re doing.”
Though the last to perform, the teams in the grade school (or midgets division) did not disappoint.
SPPC won first place, followed by Miriam College and San Beda Alabang.
Also a big winner was coach Alejandro “Ajjie” Mendelebar, who led the UA&P Firestarter seniors and San Beda Red Lion midgets to their victories.
The two achievements were “fruits of hard work, sweat, blood and tears,” Mendelebar posted on Instagram. He also congratulated other winners.
“I’m overwhelmed by the achievements we gained over the last competition,” said Mendelebar. “It’s one of my toughest seasons. I don’t think there’s any coach out there who has single-handedly led three teams in three different divisions in just one day.” (He was also the coach for the San Beda Alabang juniors.)
“I believe that it was all worth the stress and hard work,” he added. “And to have competed against some of the best teams around the metro is such a huge honor. Every year poses a different challenge for me and my teams. These challenges push us further and keep us on our toes.”
The WNCAA Cheerdance Competition may only be in its 46th season—32 years younger than its UAAP counterpart, which concluded its 78th season—but the performances and sheer size of the event are nonetheless formidable.
Asked about his thoughts on the comparison, Mendelebar said: “The WNCAA is bigger than the UAAP in terms of the number of schools, and the number of athletes competing.”
He noted that the WNCAA is one of the premier cheerleading leagues in the country and would continue to grow in the coming seasons.
Agreeing with Mendelebar is Jason Arneson, former De La Salle University Green Archer cheerleader in the UAAP and ex-coach of the San Beda Red Lion juniors. (He was assistant coach this season.)
“In terms of quality, I believe that the WNCAA can reach the level of the UAAP and CDC [cheerdance competitions] as the all-girl counterpart,” Arneson said. “The magnitude of opportunities, like international competitions and recognition gained by the popular co-ed teams from the UAAP are beginning to be experienced by different WNCAA all-girl teams. When the Philippines decides to embrace all-girl cheerleading as much as the more popular co-ed counterpart, it will be recognized in the WNCAA since it is the most diverse and has the highest quality of competitive cheerleading in the country.”