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All flips, no flops: IUPUI’s top-tier cheerleading squad

Feb 12, 2020
The IUPUI cheer team mid-competition at the UCA Nationals in Orlando Florida.
IUPUI cheerleaders showcased their routine at the UCA Nationals in Orlando, Florida.Photo courtesy of Olivia Brite

What kind of sport doesn’t have a ball?

The kind in which IUPUI places top 10 in the nation, without a single point deduction from the team’s performance.

The school’s cheerleading squad placed eighth in the nation in the Division I All-Girls Final at the UCA Nationals in Orlando and was the only team in the division that completed a perfect routine.

The last time IUPUI cheerleading made it to the finals? It was 2014, but they didn’t place at the end of the competition.

After taking over the program in October 2018, coach Ashley “Alex” Burelison had a vision from day one to get the team back to the promised land.

“I told them the very first time I met them that my program goal was to go to Nationals,” Burelison said. “I think they thought I was nuts because we were still rebuilding at the time.”

The IUPUI cheer team poses with their trophy.
The IUPUI Cheerleading team placed eighth nationally in the DI All-Girls Finals at UCA Nationals, fulfilling their coach’s goal. Photo courtesy of Olivia Brite

A little under 18 months later, after hoisting the coveted trophy, Burelison has a new expectation for her team next year: placing in the top five.

Higher expectations mean heavier workloads, but current freshman flyer Olivia Brite is ready for the challenge.

“UCA Nationals was the biggest stage I’ve competed on in my seven years of cheering,” Brite said. “We’re going to keep building our program, and I don’t see us skipping out on Nationals anytime soon.”

Her biggest takeaway from her freshman season was how to be an effective and supportive teammate. After hundreds of hours of practice, athletes are bound to get exhausted and sometimes frustrated with the process, but they stood strong.

“The dynamic of this team was amazing –we were always encouraging each other to push through the fatigue and pain,” Brite said. “Being on the IUPUI team and learning from Coach Alex really helped me improve, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.”

Description of the following video:

[Video: Oliva Brite walks outside on the IUPUI campus and addresses the camera directly]

Olivia Brite speaks: Hi, guys. My name’s Olivia Brite, I’m an IUPUI cheerleader, and this is our road to Nationals.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: An aerial shot of the IUPUI campus appears. Text on it reads “Road to Nationals with Oliva Brite”]

[Video: Olivia continues to walk outside and speak to the camera]

Olivia Brite speaks: So, just a little bit about me. I am a freshman here at IUPUI; this is my second semester. I’ve been cheering for about six or seven years, but this is obviously my first year on the IUPUI team. My major is Public Safety Management through the O’Neill School here at IUPUI. And I’m an IUPUI cheerleader, if you couldn’t tell.

Olivia speaks: So, over the next few days I’m going to be showing you guys firsthand what it’s really like to be a student-athlete here at IUPUI and a college cheerleader on the way to Nationals. So, I’m really excited to show you guys. This morning I am going to have three classes, and I have a practice this afternoon, and that’s the last practice before we leave for Nationals tomorrow.

[Video: Olivia walks through the doors of her classroom building and back outside.]

Olivia speaks: All right guys, I just got done with my Public Safety in America class. It looks like I’m gonna have a little bit of homework to balance while I’m at Nationals – no big deal.

[Video: Olivia continues to walk outside and steps down a set of stairs]

Olivia speaks: It’s all a part of being a student-athlete here at IUPUI. When you’re a student-athlete, you’re still expected to keep up with the schoolwork as if you were still here. So especially for the teams that travel a lot more than we do, it’s kind of hard to balance everything when you have games and practices on the same day that the big assignments are due. So you really have to make sure that you can manage your time properly and really get your stuff done so you don’t fall behind in all your classes.

[Video: Olivia walks through the IUPUI Natatorium as she addresses the camera]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so it is 5:45, and I am headed, well, I’m in the Nat now for the last practice before we leave for Nationals. This practice isn’t probably going to be too hardcore like our other practices are, but in the last two weeks we’ve had 16 practices, seven games and three, like, special showcase performances, all to prep for our Nationals competition. Which we leave for tomorrow, and I still haven’t packed, so … we’re vibing – it’s OK.

[Video: As Olivia address the camera, she pans to a female student walking up behind her]

Olivia speaks: Do you guys wanna meet my team? Here’s Makayla. Hi Makayla, say hi to the vlog.

[Video: Makayla waves to the camera.]

Makalya speaks: Hello.

Olivia speaks: Makayla is my main base. She lifts me up and saves my life all the time.

[Video: As Olivia introduces Makayla, she walks through a set of doors and into a gymnasium.]

Olivia speaks: Do you wanna meet the rest of my team? Hey team, say hi to the vlog!

[Video: Olivia, still addressing the camera, turns around to reveal her cheerleading team gathered a short distance away near a set of bleachers.]

The cheer team speaks in unison: Hi, vlog!

[Video: Olivia walks around the gym toward the bleachers. Words of encouragement such as “Strong,” “Reliable” and “Dedicated” are taped to a set of bleachers.]

Various members of the cheer team speak: It’s so cute. That’s so sweet, I’m gonna cry! Hold on. I knew that’s what you were doing. I was like – I can’t even see it. I was like guys, it’s okay. She bought us cookies too, look.

[Video: A member of the cheer squad holds up a cookie in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears with “IUPUI” written in icing]

Olivia speaks: That’s so cute.

[Video: Olivia moves the camera to reveal another cheerleading teammate over her shoulder.]

Olivia speaks: We love Makayla!

Her teammate speaks: It’s so cute.

Olivia speaks: This is Sammy. Guys, say hi to the IUPUI vlog. Say hi to IUPUI.

[Video: Sammy and other members of the cheer team wave at the camera.

Members of the cheer team speak: Hi. Hello. Hi, IUPUI.

Olivia speaks: Are we excited to go to Nationals tomorrow?

Members of the cheer team exclaim: Whoooo!

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Camera pans over cheerleaders stunting in slow motion and practicing their routine]

[Music plays]

[Video: Olivia appears back on camera. She walks on the cheer mat, onto the gym floor.

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so it’s the end of practice 16. We are leaving for Nationals tomorrow.

[Video: Olivia moves the camera to the center of a cheer team circle and points the camera back up at their huddled hands and faces.

Olivia speaks: Everybody say hi to the vlog.

Cheer team yells: Hi, vlog!

A member of the cheer team speaks: To Disney on 3. 1, 2, 3.

The cheer team speaks, in unison: To Disney!

[Electric music plays]

[Video: The text “Day 2” appears on a black screen as music plays]

[Video: Olivia speaks to the camera while standing in her bedroom.]

Olivia speaks: Good morning, guys. It is officially the day that we leave for Nationals. It is 10 a.m. right now. I have to be at the airport at noon, so I’m gonna get dressed in my business casual outfit, and put a little makeup on, make myself look a little prettier, eat some food and get out.

[Video: Olivia walks through her house and down the stairs.]

Olivia speaks: It’s 10:45, I am on my way to campus to meet up with some of my teammates so we can all ride to the airport together. And then we’ll be on the plane, and ready to go. Do you wanna see my favorite human?

[Video: Olivia opens her front door and the camera pans to a calico cat near the door frame outside.]

Olivia speaks: Well, not human. Nyla, hi, baby.

[Video: Olivia stands in the open doorway.]

Olivia speaks: My mom’s driving me to the airport, so you’ll get to see a little bit of footage from there, but I’ll see you in a minute.

[Video: Olivia stands in the parking lot outside of an apartment complex. As she speaks, she pans the camera to reveal several of her teammates over her shoulder.]

Olivia speaks: All right guys, I’ve arrived at the Tyler with my girls, and we’re on the way –

Olivia’s cheerleading teammates chime in to scream, in unison: Florida!

[Video: Olivia arrives at the Indianapolis International Airport with two other members of the cheer team. They walk through the glass doors at the main entrance.]

Olivia speaks: We just arrived at the airport. This is Sereta and Lexie. Lexie’s my Back Spot, she saves my life a lot, too.

Lexie speaks: Always.

Olivia speaks: And so does Kiara. And Here’s some other people on our team.

[Video: Olivia pans the camera around to reveal more of her teammates sitting around the baggage check at the airport.]

A cheer teammate speaks: So, this is for IUPUI?

Olivia speaks: This is for IUPUI, say hi!

[Video: Olivia’s teammates wave, and she points the camera back at herself, while some teammates pose behind her.]

Olivia speaks: We gotta wait on everybody else, but they should be here by noon or so.

[Video: Olivia points the camera at her teammates and shows off their business casual outfits.]

Olivia speaks: Ooh, let me see the outfit. Let me see. Do a spin.

[Video: Sammy, wearing a black blazer and white snake-print pants, does a spin for the camera.]

Olivia speaks: Ooh, Wall Street takeover.

[Video: Another teammate, donning Toy Story-print Mickey Mouse ears, poses for the camera.]

Olivia speaks: Hailey, Hailey, do a spin. She’s so cute with her little ears, ooh! Close-up.

[Video: Hailey spins in a circle, and Olivia moves the camera close to Hailey’s Mickey Mouse ears.]

[Video: Olivia speaks to the camera as she walks through the airport. Sammy pops in and out of the frame with a big smile.]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, we are through baggage check. We have not gone through TSA yet. But look at our beautiful airport – it’s so pretty in here.

[Video: Olivia points the camera over her shoulder to show the main atrium of the Indianapolis International Airport.]

[Video: Olivia walks toward a woman who is waving and wearing Mickey Mouse ears.]

Olivia speaks: Everybody, say hi to Alex. Alex is our competition coach. Hello!

Alex, also wearing homemade mouse ears, speaks: Hello!

[Video: Olivia continues to walk through the airport. Her teammates are huddled under an IUPUI banner advertisement hanging from the ceiling.]

Olivia speaks: Look what I found, what we found.

[Video: Olivia moves more quickly toward her teammates, who are posing for a picture under the IUPUI banner.]

A cheerleader speaks: Hurry, Liv!

Olivia: Picture time. Everybody say hi to the vlog!

[Video: As Olivia moves closer to her teammates, they wave at the camera.]

The cheerleaders speak in unison: Hi!

[Video: Electric music plays as Olivia pans the camera up to get a full view of the IUPUI banner ad. The ad reads: A community where you belong.]

[Music plays]

[Video: The screen divides into a split screen. On the left is a video of Olivia’s teammates walking down the jet bridge to board the plane. On the right is a video from Olivia’s point of view as she steps onto the plane and waits in line to take her seat.]

Olivia speaks: Okay, we are on our way to the plane. Are we excited for Disney?

Cheer team members exclaim: Whoooo!

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Olivia is now in her seat on the plane, surrounded by several members of her cheer team.]

Olivia speaks: IUPUI, say hi to the vlog.

The cheer members around Olivia exclaim: Hi, vlog!

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Olivia turns the camera around to show more of her teammates seated around the plane. Several teammates wave at the camera.]

[Video: View from the plane window of plane taking off, in the air and then landing]

[Video: Olivia walks off plane through airport]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, we just landed. Well, we didn’t just land, but we just got off the plane. It is way hot here, let me tell you. You can already feel the heat. A little bit different than the 31-degree weather that we’ve been experiencing, but here we are.

[Electric Music plays]

[Video: Olivia walks through the airport and flips the camera to show her teammates and coach]

Olivia speaks: You wanna say hi to the vlog?

Cheerleader speaks: Hi, we’re here!

Olivia speaks: Two hours until Disney.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Olivia and cheer team take the airport train and show the outside view of trees from the train window]

[Video: Cheerleaders wave and walk onto Magical Express bus; pan of entire exterior of the bus]

[Video: Olivia gets onto the bus]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so we are getting on the Magical Express to go to Disney, and it’ll be about 45 minutes and then we’ll be there. Go, Jags!

[Electric music plays]

[Video: View of traffic from the bus window, bus drives under “Walt Disney World Where Dreams Come True” awning]

[Video: Cheer team gets off of the bus in fast motion, camera pans to cheerleaders in the parking lot]

Cheerleaders peak: I-U-P-U-I Hail to the Jaguars of IUPUI. Loyal to you we’ll always be – Let’s go! Here we go, go – The power of two our destiny.

[Video: Olivia appears checking in at the gym with the rest of the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so we are here checking in at UCA. How do we feel?

[Video: Olivia looks at another cheer team]

Olivia speaks: Where are you guys from?

Other team speaks: Westchester.

Olivia speaks: Westchester. Say hi to Westchester.

[Video: Westchester team waving]

[Electric music plays]

[Video: pan of the vicinity indoors and outdoors, cheer team checking into hotel with suitcases, one cheerleader holds up a wiener dog headband at a trinket stand]

[Video: Olivia is in her hotel room with other girls from the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: All right – hey guys, we are officially checked into our room. Everybody say hi.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Olivia is in her hotel room with other girls from the cheer team who stick up their hands]

Olivia speaks: We’re kind of dead. This is our room. Basically, just a small little thing. There’s four of us to a room, but we’re all gonna be nice and cozy by the end of this. So basically today we just got here, and it was darker than we expected, so we didn’t have any practice tonight. So we went to the food court, got some food, and now we are settled in for the night. Good night, guys.

[Video: Electric music plays and “Day 3” flashes onto the screen]

[Video: Olivia appears in the bathroom, getting ready with roommates in the background]

Olivia speaks: All right, good morning, guys. It is officially day three. Day three? Day three. Day three, it’s competition day. We have about 50 minutes to get ready. So I’m gonna do that really quick, and then I will meet with the team, and we’ll go compete.]

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Cheer team is all dressed up in IUPUI uniforms with suitcases and ready to leave the hotel for competition. Cheerleaders come off the bus fist pumping and cheering]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, we are officially back in the ESPN Sports area. I’m gonna flip the camera and get you a little bit of insight on how crazy this is.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Camera pans to the busy arena with people walking and palm trees swaying on the side]

[Video: Olivia walks with the cheer team into the practice area]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, we are going in for pictures and warmup. Yay! Say good luck. See you later.]

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Camera pans to different teams practicing]

[Video: Camera pans to the IUPUI team cheering during Nationals. IUPUI! Whoo! IUPUI!]

[Video: Cheerleaders are in stunt groups and chanting]

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Olivia walks back to the hotel with the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, we are back at our hotel, resort, whatever. We got some lunch. Lexie, what’d you get? [Another girl appears onscreen].

Lexie speaks: A salad.

Olivia speaks: She got a salad. What did you get, Ness? [A third girl appears onscreen]

Ness speaks: Leftovers from last night and popcorn.

Olivia speaks: Leftovers from last night and popcorn. [Olivia appears back on screen] I ate a ham sandwich, and now I’m drinking grape juice and coke, ’cause that’s a good combination, I guess. We have to be back to meet to go back to awards at 2:30, and then we will see how we did.

[Video: Olivia in hotel room]

Olivia speaks: I’m going to jump on my laptop, get connected to some Wi-Fi hopefully, and get some homework done, so I’m not falling behind in my classes when I come back.

[Video: Olivia is leaving hotel with the cheer team and heading over to the award ceremony]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so we are dressed up and ready to go. We are heading to awards right now. Are we excited?

[Video: other IUPUI cheerleaders say “YES!” and “WHOO!” as they walk behind Olivia]

Olivia speaks: We had a pretty solid routine, so …

Other cheerleader: It was a hit this morning.

Olivia speaks: It was a hit. It was a good hit, too, so we’ll see how that goes.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: View of cars passing through the windows of the bus]

[Video: Olivia walks outside with the cheer team into the ESPN arena]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys,we just got back from awards. We did great. We are happy, and now we have practice again tonight, and then we compete again tomorrow.

[Video: Olivia walks through ESPN area with teammates]

Olivia speaks: All right, vlog, it’s about to rain, so we have to get inside. We are at the end of our practice, the end of our day.

[Video: Cheer team appears chanting in a circle. 2, 3 D1! Roar. Hey. Go, Jags.]

[Video: Olivia appears in her bathroom, getting ready for bed]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so it’s currently like 10:30. 10:30? Somewhere around there – it’s like 10:30. We did our game-day routine today, and tomorrow we have to be ready at 9 a.m. again and we’ll do our D1 routine, and so we’ll see how that goes, but I’m pretty confident – a little bit nervous. It’s a harder routine, and we’ve been working a lot more on this routine than we were on the other one, so it’s kind of more high stakes. It’s a tough division, but I think we can do it. So with that, I’m gonna say goodnight and see you tomorrow morning.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: “Day 4” appears across the black screen]

[Video: Olivia appears to be leaving her hotel room with her teammates dressed in cheer uniform]

Olivia speaks: Good morning, guys. It’s officially day four. Today we compete in the D1 division. We have to meet for transit to practice in about 5 minutes, and then we’ll go to practice, and then we will compete. And then we will hang out and watch all the other teams all day, and it’ll be a great day.

[Video: Olivia appears walking to the bus with the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: We are on the way to the bus, and we are gonna go warm up and compete like I said. Let’s go! I’m really tired, sore …

Other cheerleader speaks: Alex is in back.

Olivia speaks: Alex are you excited?

[Video: Alex appears onscreen]

Alex speaks: Yeah!

Olivia speaks: Yeah, we’re excited.

Olivia and two other cheerleaders speak: We’re pumped! We’re pumped.

Olivia speaks: All right, see you there.

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Cheer team gets off of bus and waves; view of cheerleaders walking into arena and scanning tickets]

[Electric music plays]


[Video: pan of the arena and cheer mats next to full crowd, video of cheer team competing and in stunts]

[Video: Olivia appears in the arena with the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: How do you feel?

[Video: camera shakes and shows all of the IUPUI team screaming with excitement]

Olivia speaks: We just hit 0.

[Video: Olivia and other cheerleader sit and wait to hear awards in arena]

Announcer speaks: Also in the finals … IUPUI.

[Video: Cheerleaders erupt and scream with excitement]

[Electric music plays]

[Video: Olivia appears in the arena with the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: One more time – do you wanna know why? You wanna know why? Why?

Other cheerleader speaks: We’re going to finals. Let’s go!

[Video: Olivia appears outside, walking with the cheer team back to the hotel]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so we made it finals, which is super, super exciting. IUPUI hasn’t been to Nationals in four years, and the fact that we …

Other cheerleader speaks: Since 2015.

Olivia speaks: Yeah, so that’s pretty much five years. So the fact that we made it to finals on the first try is pretty freaking great. We have about 10 minutes to, like, recollect ourselves. Make sure we look all pretty, ready to go. And then we’ll have a little bit of warmups, pictures, warmups again and then we’ll compete at 5:18 for the second time today, so, Whoo!

[Video: Olivia appears running outside at night with the cheer team]

Other cheerleader speaks: We are going to finals awards, and whoo!

Olivia speaks: ’Cause we just competed, and it was really good, and I’m happy, and we’re happy, and we actually get to swim later so that’s so fun, goodbye.

[Video: Olivia appears with cheer team, holding trophy in the gym]

Olivia speaks: Hey, guys. We just got back from awards. Do you wanna see what we got?

[Video: Trophy is held into the air]

Olivia and others speak: Eighth in the nation. She’s so pretty.

[Video: Olivia appears in her bathroom]

Olivia speaks: All right, so we just got back from the competition. We placed eighth out of 16. [Girls talk in the background]. 8 out of 16. And this is our first year, so we are super, super happy, super, super pumped. We hit 0 and we did the best routine that we’ve ever done, so that is really what we are banging on right now.

[Video: Olivia looks behind her]

Olivia speaks: What? Oh, “hitting 0” means that you hit every single, like, piece of your routine and nothing fell, like nothing majorly bobbled, which is like when it almost falls but it doesn’t fall. So yeah, we hit a perfect routine, pretty much. And then we had a great time together. And now we are gonna shower and sleep without having to wake up early. And tomorrow we’re going to Disney, so that’s super exciting. I’m going to bed – goodnight, guys.

[“Day 5” is shown on the black screen with electric music]

[Video: Olivia appears outside walking out of her hotel]

Olivia speaks: Hey, guys. Good morning. It is officially day five, and today we have nothing to do, so we’re gonna go hit the parks, and I will see you after].

[Video: Olivia appears, walking outside to the park with her teammates.

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so it is our first time in Disney! We are officially here. We’re so excited.

Other cheerleader speaks: We’re here!

[Electric music plays over a montage of Disney World]

[Video: Olivia appears outside the airport with the cheer team]

Olivia speaks: All right, guys, so Nationals is officially over. We are online, ready to go back to the airport and fly home to Indy. Thank you so much for tuning into our journey and seeing what we did at Nationals and what we do here at IUPUI cheer.

Other cheerleader speaks: Go, Jags!

[Electric music fades over the end]

A vlog documenting the cheer team’s journey to UCA Nationals.

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