It’s an exciting time to be a UCF cheerleader!
During the past four months, Jacob Serre, Tyler Peterson and their teammates have traveled to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Arizona and the European Championships in Paris. This weekend, they will compete for a national championship closer to home, at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World.
The nation’s best collegiate cheerleading squads, dance teams and mascots will compete Friday through Sunday.
Serre, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and is now studying project engineering and engineering management, and Peterson, a sophomore event management major, hope to win UCF’s third national championship in cheerleading. The Knights won the title in 2003 and 2007. UCF has placed in the top five 15 times since 1994.
Describe your experience at the Fiesta Bowl.
Tyler: The energy in the stadium, even though our fans were outnumbered, was incredible. The adrenaline we had in the final minutes was crazy. You can’t beat the feeling I had running on the field to celebrate with the team!
Jacob: It was the best way I could ever envision ending my career as a cheerleader on the sideline for football. One of the best parts was being able to run onto the field and celebrate with our team and to know that our school and our football program had proved so many people wrong. You could definitely feel a new sense of pride in our fans and our players after that amazing win.
Several cheerleaders volunteered at a Phoenix food bank during the trip. Tell me about that experience.
Jacob: It was such a blessing knowing that I was able to help people who are truly in need. As a cheerleader, we do a lot of volunteering during the year. Anytime I have the chance to volunteer while I have the letters U-C-F on my chest I make sure that I do because that is what we are all about here.
(Caption: Jacob Serre helps to pack emergency food boxes in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Scott Mitchell Photography)
What do you enjoy the most about cheerleading?
Tyler: I started cheerleading competitively when I was in the fourth grade. I love that cheerleading is a team sport. Unlike most team sports, you literally depend on every single individual. It creates such a strong bond between everyone on the team, and everyone respects each other. The second is the rush you feel performing and doing what you love in front of an entire stadium, arena or wherever else you may be. Being a part of a school’s traditions and making history is an experience you can’t beat.
Is there something most fans don’t know about the UCF cheerleaders that you wish they did?
Tyler: I don’t think that most people know that we have two national championships. I think sometimes we get overlooked as “athletes” to fans because most just get to see us leading the crowd at games.
Jacob: Our amazing coaches spend weeks preparing us to become great sideline entertainers as well as ambassadors for the university. We practice four days a week for three hours each day, as well as workouts twice a week for two hours each day. Most of us go to local gyms two to four times a week to perfect our skills on our own time.
When did you start working on your nationals routine?
Jacob: It started literally the day after nationals in 2013. We all got home the next day, determined to be better, and instead of taking a break or resting for a few days, almost the whole team was at open gym that Monday night working on the stunts. We knew that we would have to step our game up and start working on not only more difficult stunts but being able to squeeze more stunts into a routine than we’ve ever done before.
What was the highlight of your trip to Paris?
Jacob: One of the best parts about that trip was just being able to enjoy the city of Paris with all of its sites and attractions with what I consider to be my other family. We work really hard all year and sometimes we can step on each other’s toes like family members do. It was really just nice to have some of those days to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Why did you choose to attend UCF?
Tyler: It was always my dream of mine to cheer for a competitive collegiate program while also getting a degree in something I love. For me, UCF had both of those things to offer. Along with an amazing coaching staff and welcoming team members, the moment I left my first stunt clinic I knew this was the right fit for me. You also can’t beat the location!
Describe your favorite class.
Jacob: My favorite class was last semester with Dr. Robert Hoekstra. Dr. Hoekstra taught us about the qualities it takes to become a great leader, and he showed us the realities of having to make difficult ethical decisions as a professional engineer.
Tyler: I really loved my event industries class. Really though, any class I take at Rosen I enjoy. I’ve had great professors and extremely friendly classmates.
Who are your role models?
Jacob: I would not be half as prepared for the next stage of my life in the business world if it weren’t for our head coach, Linda Gooch. She is great at bringing out the best in people and helping shape you not just into a great athlete but into a successful person in life, which has always been her number one goal.
Tyler: Both of my parents have always been my support system, and they’ve always pushed me to become better. They really taught me to go after my dreams and not stop just because there’s a bump in the road. My sister has been an example of all of those lessons my whole life. I have watched her push through all of her struggles, and she really taught me to be stronger person.
If you could play any other sport at UCF, what would it be and why?
Tyler: Soccer! I played soccer for several years and loved it; ultimately, cheer just kept me too busy to do both.
Tell me something about you that many of your friends don’t know.
Jacob: I think chivalry isn’t dead yet. I was raised to always open the car door for a woman, be a gentleman, and always say yes ma’am… yes sir… and please and thank you for everything and I still abide by it to this day.
Tyler: I love the outdoors. Hiking, fly-fishing, camping, all of it. I may be a girly girl but I love doing that stuff too!