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Cheer and dance become NAIA varsity sports

Story by Brittney Diehm

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Competitive cheer and dance are now the 24th and 25th national championships sponsored by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. This news was released recently during the 75th annual NAIA National Convention.

Baker’s head dance coach, Lynsey Payne, joined NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr on stage at the event to make the announcement. She is a member of the Competitive Cheer and Dance Committee, which had been working on getting competitive cheer and dance to varsity status for approximately five years.

There is no governing body for these two sports, so committee members spent a lot of time writing rules.

“At one point in time we started at invitational status,” Payne said. “Some changes were made and we kind of had to start over again. We’ve now officially met all of the criteria that you need to be a varsity sport.”

For NAIA varsity sport status, the sport must be sponsored by a minimum of 40 varsity institutions.

Nia Madison is a sophomore dancer at Baker University who is excited to finally see her team’s hard work pay off.

“It’s about time competitive cheer and dance are sports,” Madison said. “We work hard, so it’s cool to not be club/activity status anymore.”

Madison envisions more dancers and cheerleaders looking to come to Baker and other NAIA schools in the future because of the varsity sport status.

“It’s exciting to see these sports grow,” Madison said. “I think there will be an increase in dancers and cheerleaders that want to come to Baker and other NAIA schools since we can officially say cheer and dance are sports.”

The NCAA has not made cheer or dance a varsity sport, but Payne thinks that may change.

“One big thing in cheer is called ‘stunting,’ and I know the NCAA has been looking at that for the cheer side of things,” Payne said. “Dance is different and a lot of people think dance should not be a sport.”

Payne is sure the other groups will be watching to see how the NAIA handles this addition.

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Cheer and dance become NAIA varsity sports