Four Cheers for Cheer!

Another banner is coming to the Pitt Center!

The Sacred Heart University cheerleading team successfully defended their National Championship, winning their fourth consecutive title in the Open All-Girl Game Day division down in Florida at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.

Led by head coach CJ Sereno, a former SHU cheerleader herself, the Pioneers continue to succeed on the biggest stage.

“I have very talented athletes,” said Sereno. “The emotions are crazy, it’s like an emotional rollercoaster.”

Winning year after year is not easy, and it can be challenging to maintain the same level of competitive spirit with each title that the Pios take home. This is something that Sereno has to try and manage as the year goes on.

“I felt a little uneasy going into this season because it’s never handed to you,” said Sereno. “They have to execute absolutely perfectly.”

Senior Madison Jones is the game-day captain, and she has now been on the team for all four of their national titles.

“It was amazing. We went out there and had fun,” said Jones. “It was surreal, unexplainable honestly.”

As the team continues to win, the target on their backs gets larger and larger. This adds to the pressure of trying to defend their title year in and year out.

“We go down there just to hit, but this year the win felt different,” said assistant coach Jayce Jones. “It was just a harder year to win. As coaches, all we wanted was for them to hit perfectly and they did that.”

That’s now four wins in four years for the senior class, something that Jones doesn’t take lightly.

“Throughout the season there was a lot of pressure because all four years of me being here we’ve won,” said Jones. “Leading the team to this competition was hard because there’s a lot of expectations and high hopes.”

The cheerleading program has evolved in a big way since Sereno became the head coach back in 2016. Assistant coach Jones credits a lot of the team’s success and growth to Sereno.

“She’s impacted the cheer team a lot. I was on the team with her the first year when she started coaching in 2016. Ever since then we’ve grown so much,” said Jones. “It’s just her dedication, her drive to support and keep the team going. She’s very positive on and off the mat.”

The culture that Sereno has cultivated within this program is part of what makes them special and is a driving force behind their continued success.

“I think the most important thing about this program is that they have fun. I think that is what sets them apart from everyone else,” said Sereno. “They want to come to practice and they do their job. They are focused when they need to be, but they also have fun doing it.”

This focused-but-fun attitude is one of the ways that Sereno tries to create an edge for her team.

“It makes it easier to push them because they want to get better and love being here,” said Sereno. “I think I do a really good job of not putting pressure on them, and I tell them to come in here, do your best, and have fun.”

The growth that the Sacred Heart cheerleading program has undergone since Sereno took over is a sense of pride for the former SHU cheerleader.

“When I was on the team we weren’t even doing skills remotely close to what they’re doing now,” said Sereno. “I never thought it could get to where they are now to where we can say Sacred Heart is the team to beat.”

As SHU looks to make it a five-peat next winter, the question is what’s next?

“CJ always has some tricks up her sleeve,” says Madison Jones.

Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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Co-Sports Editor and Staff Writer

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