Penn State Behrend’s competitive cheer team recently made history, earning the college’s first nationally ranked cheerleading trophy. The team, led by coach Kelli Carpinello, took second place in the 2023 NCA College Cheer National Championships, the highest-ranking competition for collegiate cheerleading, held in Daytona Beach, Florida, in April.
Cheerleading is a club sport at Behrend, but Carpinello and the students involved in the club take it as seriously as a competitive sport.
The team typically practices three times a week, and team members are required to work out at least twice a week on their own. Tumblers are asked to attend open-gym sessions weekly.
Carpinello, who also works as a financial aid coordinator at Behrend, coaches two cheer teams—Game Day Cheer and Competitive Cheer—and the college’s Dance Team. All three clubs have grown considerably under her guidance, with more than 35 students participating in the 2022-23 academic year.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the past couple of years,” Carpinello said. “I believe that post-COVID, people wanted to get out and do more. Most of these students missed out on memorable events at the end of their high school years and the beginning of their college years. This past fall, we had a record number of people try out for cheer.”
Behrend Magazine talked with Lauren Hanke, a member of the Competitive Cheer club, to learn more about the club’s big win.
Tell us about the Florida competition.
Hanke: The competition was three days long, with routines starting at 8 a.m. and going until 9 p.m. We competed in the Spirit Rally Division. After our Day 1 performance, we were in second place, only one point behind first place. Our Day 2 scores were then combined with our Day 1 performance, which ultimately resulted in our team claiming second place. We were very proud!
Were there any special moments or memories you want to share?
Hanke: The tradition at the NCA competition after winning a title is to run into the ocean with the trophy to celebrate everyone’s hard work over the past eight months. I think the team would agree that this was the most memorable experience for us. There were a lot of tears, hugs, and, of course, cheers!