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‘Using everything you’ve got’: Rocky Mountain College cheer team chasing national title

Rocky Mountain College Cheer
Posted at 3:53 PM, Mar 21, 2024

BILLINGS — As college basketball teams fly into March Madness, the competitive cheer team at Rocky Mountain College is flying into uncharted territory.

Some may wonder, what’s the difference between game day cheer and competitive?

“It’s very different," head cheer coach Latisha Demarais explained to MTN Sports before a recent practice inside the Fortin Center. "We do a lot of athletic things on the sideline (during games), throwing each other around, tumbling. (During competition), you get two minutes and 15 seconds to put as many skills as you can into a routine. It’s kind of in the judges' hands from there.”

“Competition, it’s very … it’s hard,” admitted RMC junior Tori Peek.

Junior Dani Jorgensen agreed.

“You’re working the whole time and there’s no time to breathe,” she said. "It’s evident the first time you throw a full out how tired you are by the end of that 2:15 … which doesn’t seem like much, but you’re using everything you’ve got the entire time.”

Watching in person, it’s easy to realize the pure athleticism on display. And the risk factor.

“Concussions, I would say, are the No. 1 (injury) in cheerleading," Demarais acknowledged. "Sometimes you’re doing a rotation when you’re thrown, or you come down head-first, or your flyer comes down with an elbow to the head. It’s nothing that says anything about the cheer program, it’s just … you’re throwing people in the air.”

Peek said she dislocated her knee as a freshman.

While Rocky traces its history back to 1878, competitive cheer at the school made its debut only a year ago this month winning Cheerfest Montana.

In less than three weeks, the Bears will be in Daytona Beach, Florida, stepping up in competition at the NCA College Nationals, while aiming to become Montana’s first collegiate program to earn a national cheerleading title.
“We’ll compete in the advanced all girls division," Demarais said. "There’s also an intermediate (division), but we were one of five that qualified for advanced.”

“I have watched it before and it’s an experience I can’t even begin to explain,” said Jorgensen, who with teammates has been fund raising for this trip. “Coming from Montana, you don’t see cheer in that capacity.”

Demarais, who started competitively cheering in high school before earning team captain status her senior year at Montana State, started coaching for Rocky in 2019. Knowing how national judges will grade, she has intensified the Bears' difficulty in choreography. The squad is up for it.

“One of our highest skills is called a hand-in-hand," Peek explained. "We basically have our flyers, which is the person that’s in the air, upside down in a handstand and we are holding them. And then we flip them, and somehow through physics they land.”