UW-Eau Claire’s cheer and stunt team is flying high

Blugold cheerleaders share details on their team and their upcoming season



The cheer and stunt team puts in countless hours to practicing and perfecting their elaborate routines and stunts.

They are at every home football and basketball game, whether it’s cheering from the sidelines or flying through the air during timeouts. They are a constant source of motivation, feeding the energy of the crowd and the team.

UW-Eau Claire’s cheer and stunt team is a dedicated collection of around 30-40 students who spend a regular season training, conditioning and preparing routines for Eau Claire sporting events and competitions.

Newcomer Amy Aakhus, a sophomore pursuing a biochemistry and molecular biology degree, said she loves being part of the Eau Claire team, especially compared to her past experience at Lindenwood University.

“Comparing my two collegiate experiences, UWEC was definitely instantly more welcoming than my experience last year,” Aakhus said. “The team is great to work with, and I instantly felt like I was an important part of this team.”

This is Aakhus’s first year with the Eau Claire cheer and stunt team. Before this, Aakhus cheered in high school. However, she said the physical commitment of a collegiate-level team is much more demanding, with routines consisting of tumbling, jumping, stunting and building complicated pyramids.

Senior finance major Hannah Pongratz, the team secretary, has been with the cheer and stunt team for four years. She agreed with Aakhus, saying participating with a collegiate level team is rewarding but also challenging. They must strive to compete at a high level while ensuring the team members’ safety.

“It is a great experience, but you definitely have to be prepared to learn a lot and work your hardest, not only for yourself but for your team itself,” Pongratz said. “No other sport has such a dependence on teamwork as cheerleading.”

As a year-round activity, cheerleading can take up a lot of the students’ time. The team begins the season by training collectively and cheering on the football team. Later, they split into the gold team and the blue team.

The gold team is Eau Claire’s competitive team, participating in 4-6 competitions annually. They have achieved great success in the past, including last year when the Blugolds won first place at the World Wide Spirit Association national competition in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Meanwhile, the blue team is the winter sideline team that cheers at home basketball games and participates in around 1-2 competitions.

During both the football and basketball games, Pongratz said the team performs stunts and tumbling routines, whether it’s before the game or during timeouts. Their goal is to keep the energy high, especially when the Blugolds are down.

In order to perform their best at these events, the cheer and stunt team trains relentlessly to get in tip-top shape, Pongratz said. Typical practices include strength training — to stunt, build pyramids and tumble — and flexibility training for the jump sections, which require a wide range of motion. Cheerleaders are also expected to train on their own, outside of practice.

The team also uses practices to prepare their routines, Pongratz said, for on-campus events like ‘Yell Like Hell’, as well as their competition season, which will begin after football season.

Like Aakhus, Pongratz also cheered in high school, which she said helped prepare her for cheerleading at the collegiate level, where the skill level and competitiveness were much higher. It helped her build strength and prepared her for what to expect as part of the Eau Claire team.

Now Pongratz and the team are able to help prepare local high schoolers to become collegiate cheerleaders. The team is an active part of the Eau Claire community recruiting at competitions and participating in events like BOB, the Shamrock Shuffle and homecoming. Their athletes also help with the Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Pom Coaches (WACPC) annual conference and their state competition.

Overall, Pongratz said she has learned a lot from her experiences with the Eau Claire cheer and stunt team and she has made many friends along the way.

“We learn to become a family each and every year,” Pongratz said. “I feel that being on the cheer and stunt team has given me a solid foundation of skills to use in the future and I am so grateful to have been a part of such a wonderful team.”

To learn more about the Eau Claire cheer and stunt team, check out their Facebook page, their Instagram account or their official team website.