A photo of the Thompson Rivers University cheer team taken at the University World Cup Cheerleading Championships. (FACEBOOK PHOTO COURTESY TRU)

A photo of the Thompson Rivers University cheer team taken at the University World Cup Cheerleading Championships. (FACEBOOK PHOTO COURTESY TRU)

Vancouver Island cheerleader takes her enthusiasm to the international stage

University World Cup Cheerleading Championships took place in Orlando, Florida

A Port Alberni cheerleader recently had the chance to perform on an international stage.

Port Alberni-raised Maria Banman was part of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack cheer team that travelled to the 2023 University World Cup Cheerleading Championships, which took place in Orlando, Florida from Jan. 13-15.

The weeks leading up to the event were “very nerve-wracking,” said Banman.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life so far,” said Banman. “It was so much fun because it was full of people working for the same thing.”

The team finished third in the world in the Game Day category, and fourth in the Premier All-Girl category. The Premier category involves more stunting, Banman explained, while the Game Day category is more “traditional” cheerleading. It’s all about getting the crowd involved, with chants, pompoms and dancing.

WolfPack co-coach Heather Crawford said it was an “incredible” experience to take the team to the world championships. Although TRU’s cheer team is still a fairly young program, they competed at the event in 2020 and were eligible to compete in 2021 (although the event was cancelled due to COVID-19).

“Each and every athlete poured their heart and soul into the practices leading up to this competition and it paid off,” said Crawford. “I have always been proud of this program, but seeing what the athletes accomplished on that mat will stay with me forever. This cheer program has grown exponentially since my time as an athlete, and I am honoured to continue to be a part of this program now as a coach.”

Banman is in her first year of university at TRU. She is currently studying sociology, although she is hoping to eventually enter the school’s law program. When applying for schools, Banman said the cheer team is what got her looking at TRU as an option.

“I liked that the cheer team always posted on social media, so I could keep up with what they were doing,” she said.

Banman was on the Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) cheer team throughout her high school career, which taught her the basics of cheerleading. In her Grade 12 year, she was named one of the team’s captains.

“That made me look at cheer from a different perspective,” she said. “It helped me change the way I listen and talk to others. My coaches at ADSS definitely helped me get to where I am today.”


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