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by Jen Byrne, staff writer

Friday morning, 6 a.m., HPU graduate student Savanna Sibley rolls wearily out of bed for another normal day. She dresses in black spandex shorts and a fuchsia sports bra bearing the lettering “HPU Cheer.” With three national championship rings to her name, she slips on her bleached Infinity shoes and heads out to practice at Cheer 808 by 7 a.m.
At practice Sibley leads stretches with the team and immediately has to flip head over heels. She is known as a “flyer,” or the top girl, and is regularly thrown into the air, about seven feet off the ground, where she often balances on one foot, while pulling the other leg behind her head. Through sweat, and sometimes blood and tears, Sibley is half way through her morning by 10 a.m.
Following practice Sibley heads straight for 24 Hour Fitness, where she spends her time on the elliptical, lifting weights, and keeping her body in optimum shape to win another championship.
At noon, she goes home to shower, eat, and dress for work. Sibley begins work at 1 p.m. at the Hawaii Athletic Club, at Aloha Towers. At 5 p.m. she heads to HPU’s downtown campus for a night class.
After a busy day, with little time to relax, Sibley still has the energy and stamina to hang out with her friends after class. Sibley’s schedule varies little day to day, but she enjoys every minute of it because it gives her the opportunity to cheer on a nationally recognized squad.
HPU’s cheer squad has two teams. The small co-ed team has more females than males, while the large co-ed team has more males than females. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each cheerleader follow a similar schedule as Sibley. Those on the large co-ed team get to start practice at 10 a.m.
In the past six years, HPU cheer won 10 national team titles at the National Cheerleading Association’s (NCA) Collegiate Nationals in Daytona, Florida. In Division II, HPU’s large co-ed team placed first the past six years, and the small co-ed team placed first the past four (it has competed only for four years).
The all-girl stunt groups within the small co-ed team competed on their own, and have two national titles from Florida, and one national title from Orlando at the Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) Collegiate Nationals.
HPU’s mascot, Sharky, brought home the NCA title once in 2005.
“ HPU has created a nationally recognized program,” said Carlee Johnson, a current member and three-year veteran of the small co-ed squad.
“ It is a privilege for those who are talented enough to make the team and dedicated enough to participate,” she added.
Each member of the squad receives an 80-100 percent scholarship and the chance to win a national title, jacket, and ring.
This past July, the teams met in Las Vegas for NCA summer camp. They each earned a fully paid bid to nationals in April, which includes their hotel and entrance fee to the competition, only given out to the teams that stand out with skills, leadership, and enthusiasm at camp. “Summer camp always sets the tone for the rest of the year, and let me tell you, we were looking sharp,” said Josh Maynard, a three-year member of the large co-ed squad.
Despite national’s distance, the teams are already practicing intensively. Sibley, a member of the large co-ed squad for one year and captain of the small co-ed squad for three years, is motivated to plan to continue at HPU through graduate school by the opportunity to continue to cheer for a team she loves. “I love it here,” she said, “I have met so many great people through the squad, and it has given me the opportunity to show pride in my school and win national titles while I’m at it.”
Coach Garrin Gosnell has been with the team for the past two years. Gosnell has an impressive cheer background; he cheered for Stephen F. Austin University, another nationally recognized squad. He coached McNeese State University (2001-2002) and Kilgore Junior College (2005-2006) till he found his home at HPU. Gosnell is excited about the prospects of the team this year.
“ We are strongly in the running to defend and retain our national titles in April without a doubt,” Gosnell said, “The program is stronger than it has ever been.”
HPU cheer’s amazing success in the recent years suggests a bright future ahead. With the strong funding for the program, experienced and supportive coaches, and dedicated team members, HPU cheer will surely be national champions again in Florida on April 9 to 11.


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