The Face of Spartan Athletics
With integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership, Missouri Baptist University’s cheer and dance teams are flying to new heights and making history. One of the teams, co-ed cheer, qualified last season for the NAIA Competitive Cheer and Dance National Championships in Michigan. The STUNT team also qualified for nationals, which was hosted by MBU.
MBU Spartan Line members pose at the 2022 Homecoming football game, which ended in a 24-10 Spartan win. From left to right, they are: (back row) Diamond Perks, Audrey Strawhun, Kiersten Brown, Rachel Wagner, Elizabeth Settle and Hayley Hill; (middle row) Faith Svanda, Emilee Goldsmith, Abbey Mortland, Emma Crites, Tori Mogannam and Emma Brandwein; (front row) Samantha Haynes, Autumn Heaton, Lilly Hetz, Samantha Broeker and Madison Coumerilh. Photo by Anna Jeschke
Missouri Baptist University’s spirit program, which consists of co-ed cheer, STUNT and dance, is an integral piece to the community as well as the athletics program.
With cheering and dancing on the sidelines, at halftime at home basketball and football games, and competing in and out of state, these teams have their plates full.
Andrea Robb, previous director of spirit and community engagement as well as current head co-ed cheer coach at MBU, has pushed this program into full gear in the past three years since accepting the position as director of spirit and community engagement in May of 2019.
“Each team, Spartan Line, Co-ed Cheer and STUNT, seek the highest level of excellence possible when competing in their respective sports. Additionally, we offer support to other varsity sports like football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and others as the opportunities arise,” Robb said in an email. “We also seek to cultivate excellent humans through the tool of our sports. We want to create men and women of integrity, passion and perseverance.”
Co-ed cheer is a sport that includes men and women athletes who cheer on MBU’s men and women’s varsity basketball and varsity football. Additionally, the team competes at NAIA co-ed cheer competitions.
STUNT is a new women-based take on cheer that focuses on the stunting portion of cheer, taking various stunt combinations and putting them into a head-to-head competition. MBU’s STUNT team competes with the NAIA and has made it to Nationals.
Spartan Line is MBU’s dance team, a team of women who dance on the sidelines of men and women’s varsity basketball and varsity football games as well as on the court or field at halftime. Additionally, Spartan Line’s competition team takes dancers to compete at NAIA dance competitions.
While in her position of director of spirit and community engagement, Robb, with the help of previous assistant co-ed coach and head STUNT coach Allie Henshaw, took the program fully under her wing and diligently worked to make it and its athletes the best they can be.
“When I first took over the spirit programs, I saw a need for a space for cheerleaders to compete despite not having tumbling skills. Tumbling is an expensive sport, and some athletes do not have the resources growing up to acquire those skills,” said Robb.“I brought this need to my assistant, Allie Henshaw, and she immediately suggested STUNT. We wrote up the proposal and launched the next year.”
STUNT was launched in the 2020-21 academic year and has been thriving ever since.
As a new up-and-coming sport, STUNT is quickly becoming widely known throughout the NAIA although not as widely known in lower-level education, and Robb has taken this into consideration.
“STUNT takes the athletic components of cheerleading, partner stunts, baskets, pyramids, jumps and tumbling, and puts them into a game format. While traditionally cheerleading requires all of these elements plus pom style dance to be put together in a 2-2 ½-minute routine, STUNT breaks the categories into smaller routines based on level of difficulty,” said Robb. “Teams take the mat head-to-head and perform the same routine at the same time, with the best execution taking the point for each round. There are 15 rounds with 21 points possible each game.”
With STUNT well underway, the team has hit the ground running with many accomplishments already under their belt.
“STUNT is still hard at work this season, and will not finish until late April,” Robb said earlier in the spring semester. “As of now, they have successfully won their first game in MBU history, and are scoring against teams that were complete shutouts last season. … Right now they are focused on one game at a time.”
Watching the Spirit program and many others grow in the last 20 years has been something Smith has been able to not only watch, but be a part of.
“Well it started really a long long long time ago, in fact, I have yearbooks back in the ’60s, where the cheer program was just basically made up of females that would cheer at our basketball games,” Smith said in an interview. “When I became the [athletic director] in 2004, I thought that that would be a program that we should try to enhance, and so actually one of the professors came on the scene that she understood how cheer could be a good program and recruiting tool.”
Cheer started small in the 1960s with only female athletes but has since moved on to co-ed, dance and now STUNT.
“It really wasn’t until Andrea came onto the scene that we really started thinking about STUNT, which is an emerging sport with NAIA right now. We’ve put a lot of vision into that,” Smith said, noting Robb had been an accountant in the Athletics Department when he saw her as a better fit for cheer, dance and STUNT, naming her director of spirit and community engagement, “because what I view is our cheer, dance and stunt people are the face of Spartan Athletics.”
Spartan Athletics consists of 18 sports including two co-ed sports, cheer and e-sports.
With these sports come fans and families, presenting many opportunities for outreach and recruitment.
“Spartacus (the MBU sports mascot) should be out there as well, so our vision is for him to go to children’s homes, go to Children’s Hospital, go to elementary schools and talk about the five champions of character of the NAIA,” said Smith. “We want to connect that with community relations too, and so what Andrea and her team have done is gotten elementary kids out here for cheer clinics and then they’ll cheer at halftime at a football or basketball game, and we’re getting people and parents from the community to come out to the football games to see that this is a nice program that they can follow football at a collegiate level.”
Events like these showcase MBU’s Spartan spirit and the athletics program and sends students back to their schools with an idea of collegiate level athletics.
But what sets MBU apart from other universities is the athletes and coaching staff, which Smith elaborated on.
“I definitely think we’re different and I think it’s because of the coaching staff. We have a coaching staff that is intentional. They’re just intentional and that’s really the best word I can use,” said Smith. “They’re intentional about getting the job done, educating student athletes, and they want to see men and women leave here to be better, not just academically, and to have a great collegiate athletic experience.”
With co-ed cheer, dance and STUNT quickly rising through the ranks and their programs expanding, it is clear they are ready for the next level.
The NAIA’s Champions of Character values include integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership, all of which MBU’s Athletics Department wholeheartedly agrees with and strives for at each event.
Tags: Abbey Mortland, Allie Henshaw, Andrea Robb, Anna Jeschke, Audrey Strawhun, Autumn Heaton, Cecilia Cookson, Cylin Akins, Deonna Green, Diamond Perks, Diana Bittle, Dr. Tom Smith, Elaina Camerlynck, Elizabeth Settle, Emilee Goldsmith, Emily Vallat, Emma Brandwein, Emma Crites, Faith Svanda, Hayley Hill, Jacie Coleman, Jessica Kunkel, Jesus Perez, Joey Barker, Kayla Martinez, Kelly Wright, Kiersten Brown, Kiley Roth, Lauren Yost, Lilly Hetz, Madison Coumerilh, MBU Dance, MBU E-sports, MBU Football, MBU Men's Basketball, MBU STUNT, MBU Timeline, MBU Women's Basketball, MBU's Co-ed Cheer and STUNT, MBU's Spartan Line, Missouri Baptist University’s, Mya Waldren, NAIA, NAIA Competitive Cheer and Dance National Championships, Rachel Wagner, Samantha Broeker, Samantha Haynes, Sophia Welch, Spartacus, Sports, Taylor Wells, Tori Mogannam, Vashti Altheide