The Bronc spirit at UT Pan American is alive and well according to the latest results from the Universal Cheerleaders Association's camp and competition held recently at Texas State University-San Marcos.
UTPA's spirit program team comprising the Blazers dance team, the cheer squad and Bucky, the University's mascot, ranked high in several categories and received many compliments from the UCA staff said Eric Rodriguez (BS '09), UTPA spirit and dance coordinator.
"Several of the UCA staff members used the phrase, 'Pan Am is back,' which is exciting," said Rodriguez, who took over the program in 2011 with the goal of regaining a UCA national ranking for the University, last held by UTPA in 2007.
At the July competition, the UTPA Blazers, which has six members, ranked first in fight song and earned third place for their dance routine. The 29-member cheer team, which competed in the small co-ed division, took home first place awards for fight song and sideline cheer. That team also garnered the Most Collegiate University honors in their division, along with other divisional winners, UT Austin (large co-ed division) and Oklahoma University (all girl division). Bucky kicked up his hoofs to win the Traditions Award along with the UT Austin's mascot in the large co-ed division.
Other schools competing in the small co-ed division included Colorado State University, Prairie View A&M University, University of Houston, UT Tyler, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Cheer team veteran and current captain Sergio Barrera said UTPA came in well prepared for the camp and competition, where participants are judged on crowd-leading skills and their expertise in stunts, pyramids, tumbling, jumps and dance.
"We practiced three to four times a week with conditioning at 6 a.m., so we were prepared physically and skill-wise," said the senior who is majoring in Spanish and Mexican American Studies and in his fourth year on the squad.
Barrera said it was rewarding to represent the Valley and the school at a level that they had not competed in for a long time. For veteran cheerleaders like him, the accomplishments at this camp means having even greater expectations for the entire spirit team in the future.
"It is a hunger for success and that hunger for representation of our University, especially with the merger (of UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville approved this year), we want to leave our legacy. It gives us more motivation to keep on going," he said. "With the merger happening in 2015, I feel like this is the best we are going to get while still being a Bronc at UTPA."
During the summer, the UTPA Spirit Program also hosted nearly 600 junior and senior high school cheerleaders at two different camps, where students could hone their cheer and leadership skills.
Travis Hughes, director of Wellness and Recreational Sports at UTPA, said he's proud of the team and happy they are energized after such a great set of UCA performances.
"They really deserve the recognition after all the hard work they put in. It's great to show how we can compete with the 'big' schools," Hughes said.
The UTPA Spirit Program serves as a leader of spirit in Bronc Country with its members participating in University appearances as well as all UTPA athletic events year round.
UCA, founded in 1974, is a national organization that provides educational training for college and high school cheerleaders through summer camps and clinics on college campuses.