Known for bringing Triton spirit to sporting events all over campus, Eckerd’s cheer team, the Stingrays, had a rough start to their 2019 season season, from injuries to administrative pushback. 

After successful tryouts, the Stingrays’ former captain Jillian McStravick looked to take the team to new heights. But several injuries set the team back.

“This year the team has been working at a competition level with stunts and tumbling, meaning more advanced skills are being taught at practices,” McStravick said. “Unfortunately, we had two girls go to the hospital within five days from falling out of their stunts.”

Although both recovered, one of the girls is scheduled to have surgery on her shoulder in December after falling while practicing flying. 

“It’s very abnormal for an experienced flier to fall and seriously injure themselves,” McStravick said. “She went down directly on her shoulder and we immediately knew it was not OK when she stood up and it was dangling out of place.”

The day after the second flier fell in September, McStravick, who was captain at the time, met with Tonya Womack, their staff adviser, in Brown Hall. During that meeting, Womack told her that the team was to stop any members from doing flying stunts until further notice. 

Later that same week, McStravick met with other staff members on the Risk Management Committee, who soon flagged the all of the cheer team’s stunts as a safety risk. 

These accidents at practice prevent the team from performing stunts until they attended a clinic with a coach from an off-campus gym, which they have not organized yet. 

This was not the only setback for the Stingrays Cheer Team. 

McStravick, who was serving as both the team’s coach and captain, was forced to give one up due to NCAA rules. According to the NCAA ruling, “each cheer team must be accompanied by a current AACCA certified coach in order for the team to be eligible to compete.”

“Unless I could find someone with equal certifications to take over the coaching position for free, then I could no longer be a part of the team,” McStravick said. “Truthfully when I left that meeting I cried for hours. My heart was broken knowing that I would have to tell my team that we couldn’t continue and that the sport I had loved so much was ripped right out from underneath me.”

McStravick decided to take on the role of coach for the Stingray Cheer team. The team’s reception to the news was not optimistic. 

“That night I held a meeting in the Delta Lounge and broke the news to my girls and Michael [Puciul, the Stingrays’ co-captain]. I hope nothing I ever say will bring the look of sadness to their faces as it did in that meeting,” McStravick said. “But it was that meeting that made me realize that as sad as I was to not be able to participate in my sport, I would do anything for that team.”

As coach, McStravick faces a new challenge. Since the team is unable to perform stunts, she must choreograph routines limited to tumbling, jumps, dance and basic sideline cheers. 

The team made their 2019 debut at Triton Tip Off on Oct. 18. 

“I came to the conclusion that we had to do something that would be cute and distract from the fact that we weren’t doing our normal full performance,” McStravick said.

To accomplish this, Eckerd’s Baseball team decided to join in on the routine. 

“We were reluctant at first, but Triton Tip Off is one of our favorite events of the year and we really wanted to get involved in someway,” senior baseball player Chase Achuff said. “Once we got out there on the floor we had a lot of fun and the cheer team, as well as us, killed it.”

The rest of the season is looking up for the Stingrays. Their next full performance will be in January, McStravick said. They will perform at halftime of men’s basketball games throughout the rest of the semester with McStravick leading the squad as a coach. 

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