2024 NCA & NDA College Nationals

University of New Hampshire Cheer Prepares For NCA & NDA College Nationals

University of New Hampshire Cheer Prepares For NCA & NDA College Nationals

University of New Hampshire Cheer focuses on taking things one day at a time as they prepare for the 2024 NCA & NDA College Nationals.

Apr 4, 2024 by Julia Hecht
University of New Hampshire Cheer Prepares For NCA & NDA College Nationals

Taking things one day at a time. 

That’s the mindset for the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Cheerleading teams as they prepare to take the biggest stage at the NCA & NDA College Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

“Last year, our goals for Daytona were to get on the plane, land in Daytona, practice in Daytona and compete in Daytona,” said senior captain Olivia Taranto. “We wanted to enjoy all of that and show off all of the hard work that we've put in.” 

That method worked out pretty well for the Wildcats. In 2023, the program walked away with two national championships in both Division I Intermediate All Girl and Division I Advanced All Girl. 

“We learned very quickly that hitting the routine is hard. It took a lot of training and time and practice,” said head coach Scott Rigoli. “So our main goal at the beginning of last year was just to get our routine to succeed. And that was a task in its own.” 

Like many teams, preparation for Daytona takes place long before April rolls around. For UNH, it was clear the talent was there as early as tryouts. But the program only previously competed with one team: Division I Advanced All Girl. 

Enter UNH’s second team. 

“I looked at [UNH Assistant Coach] Brad [Burla] and said, 'Instead of having the sidelines lined with alternates for our competitive season, why don't we try to provide an opportunity and create another team inside of our program?' Maybe that person can develop their skills and we can try to get them to progress throughout their years on the team," said Rigoli. 

It’s a decision that put fifteen more athletes on the floor, and brought another first place trophy home to Durham. 

“We moved some people up and moved some people around based on what would be the best fit for each athlete and each team," Rigoli explained. "So last year, we went into it, and we were like, ‘let's do this, let's try to just be as best as we can, with two teams.” 

The program is now fighting to defend two titles, but its team members don’t see it that way – at least not yet. 

“I'm not worried about hitting the routine three weeks from now. I’m worried about going in tomorrow, hitting another full out and calling it a day,” said senior captain Bianca Rodriguez. 

The teams get their routines in October – five months before they head down to Daytona. At that point, it’s just the framework – spacing, stunt sequences and tumbling passes. Athletes tend to be finalized in November, along with motions and full choreography. By January, the teams are going full out, and just two weeks later, they’re ready to perform in front of a crowd. 

“I think getting everyone on a dead mat at this early in the season definitely helps with confidence. Like, we're getting our kinks out now rather than on the bandshell,” said Rodriguez. 

Both teams attend local showcases and competitions in the months leading up to the main event. 

“It's really important that we can do the routine anywhere, in any condition, under any circumstances,” explained Taranto. “Like, we've exhibitioned on spring floor, on stages under lights, on dead mat in front of big crowds and small crowds. Everything. Because we could get all the way to Daytona and be competing in the ocean center because it's raining.” 

For UNH Cheer, the mission to repeat only starts after they land in Daytona and hit a day one performance. 

“I think our division is probably one of the toughest. I think it would obviously be amazing to go back to back and I don't think that there's any reason that we can't. We work hard. We dedicate our time. We're in the gym at least four to five times a week for three hours each practice. But so is every other team. So it's really just a matter of who wants it and who's putting in the extra blood, sweat and tears,” explained Rodriguez. 

“All you can do is be compared to the team that came before you. Not only do we have to work harder than ourselves last year, but we have to work harder than the other teams who want it for this year. Everyone's now gunning for it,” said Taranto. “We just need to keep working harder against that every practice, where our own biggest competitor.” 

Rigoli was quick to admit he’s competitive. 

“Of course I want to win. And I'm not going to sit here and say, ‘Oh no, I don't want to win,’ he explains. “But I also want to succeed in our sport, which is hitting our routines and doing our best. I want that more than I want to win.” 

Rigoli’s athletes have taken that message to heart, but are also confident they can get the job done. 

“In order to be the best at best, you have to go against the best of the best,” said Rodriguez. “And I think right now, we are the best of the best.” 

Will the UNH Wildcats hold onto their crowns and top their divisions in 2024? Tune into Varsity TV April 11-13 to find out!

A Look Back To 2023: 

University of New Hampshire Advanced All-Girl Division I Finals


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University of New Hampshire Intermediate All Girl Divison I Finals


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