Jan. 11, 2012
Siblings help Northwest look for 2nd National Championship
By David Boyce
Two days into the spring semester, Northwest Missouri State junior Brittney Bott might appear just a little distracted in class.
There is no reason for concern.
Bott and over 30 other members of Northwest cheerleading and dance squads are a few days away from competing in the Universal Cheer and Dance Association Collegiate National Championship at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Northwest coach Jason Sack, 18 cheerleaders and 18 dance team members leave at 7:30 Thursday morning.
The cheer squad, which won the Division II national title in 2010 and finished third last year, will perform at 7:08 p.m. Saturday. The dance team, coming off a fifth place finish, will do a routine at 7:08 p.m. Saturday and a second performance at 10 a.m. Sunday.
“I think we have a very good shot a winning national title,” Sacks said “The big thing is we have some new kids. The older ones have to step up and lead the younger ones the right way.”
The Bearcats have been working for this moment since school started back in late August. They took four or five days off during Christmas and then returned to campus for two-a-days.
As Reed Iacarella put it, the teams have practiced over 200 hours since the start of school for a 2 minute, 30 second routine.
“I don’t know what a football player feels before going into a game, but they have playoff games every weekend,” Brittney Bott said. “Ours comes down to 2 minutes and 30 seconds and we have been training all year for it. Butterflies are definitely there.”
Whatever happens over the weekend, cheerleading for the Bearcats has been very special for Reed Iacarella and Brittney Bott.
Reed, a first-year graduate student, came to Maryville because of his older brother, Taylor Iacarella, who got his MBA from Northwest in December.
“He started this whole cheerleading thing at Wisconsin,” Reed Iacarella said. “When I transferred to Wisconsin he took me under his wing.
“I’ve been learning from him my whole life. I was striving to be better because of him. He’s my bigger brother. I’m always trying to be competitive and be like him.”
Brittney’s younger sister, Taylor Bott, is following in her footsteps too. Although Taylor Bott will not compete in Orlando this weekend, she’s on the squad and has been cheering with her sister at athletic events.
“It is really great,” said Bott, who is majoring in dietetics. “I feel like the last two years on the squad I’ve been following and seeing what goes on and work. This year I am someone she can look up to. I’ve become more of a leader instead of a follower.”
Sack says he can tell Taylor looks up to Brittney.
“Brittney is a leader on the team,” he said. “Like siblings, there are times you put them in the same room and times you don’t.
“Taylor had made several visits when Brittney was looking at Northwest and she pretty much fell in love with Maryville when Brittney came. Taylor was only a sophomore in high school. She loved coming up and hanging out with her sister.”
The same goes for the Iacarellas.
“They are very competitive,” Sacks said. “They are your average brothers to the point they are always trying to outdo each other. They feed off each other in a good way. It makes the team better. They are good at communicating with each other.”
Taylor Iacarella’s story is inspiring for any recent college graduate struggling to find his way in a tough economy.
After Taylor Iacarella graduate from the University of Wisconsin in 2009, he could not find a job. He was working at a cheerleading camp during the summer when a friend told him about Northwest.
Taylor Iacarella decided he was going to graduate school to earn a MBA. Northwest sounded like the perfect place for him. He heard how serious they took their cheerleading and dance teams. The school gives out scholarships for cheerleading.
Taylor Iacarella joined the team and was on the national championship squad in 2010 along with Brittney Bott.
“It is hard to put into words,” Taylor Iacarella said. “That experience I will never forget for the rest of my life. For that brief moment in time, you are on top of the world. Northwest Missouri State has been amazing in embracing the national championship. They put our picture up on the side of the stadium and in the gymnasium. That whole experience has been amazing.”
You could say this year has been just as fantastic and the Bearcats haven’t even competed for another national title, yet.
For one more semester, Taylor Iacarella got to do cheerleading with his brother during the fall. He earned his MBA in December and after the competition on Saturday, Taylor Iacarella will begin his new job at Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway.
“This has been a great experience,” Taylor Iacarella said. “I got to cheer with him for a year at Wisconsin. Having him along has made the experience better and something we both will not forget.”
Reed Iacarella, who is in his second semester of graduate school, is proud of his brother.
“I’m absolutely pumped for him. He worked so hard for it,” Reed Iacarella said. “He went to Wisconsin and that’s a tough school. He came here and he did better. He stepped his game up and got his GPA higher. It’s a tough economy and having that graduate degree helped him out.
“The intangibles you get in cheer helped him out. What other sport in the country can you put men and women together to achieve a common goal. There are a lot of things you learn in cheerleading that relates to the real world.”
Obviously, the success the cheer squad has had over the last few years mean they work well together.
As Sacks said, it takes trust because of things like tossing a woman 20 feet in the air and then catching her.
“The bond we have together is really great,” Brittney Bott said. ‘We are like a family. We have our moments and stuff, but we always overcome it. We all get along well in practice.”
While the Bearcats want to do well in this weekend competition, their main purpose is to help energize the crowd to pump up whichever athletic team is competing.
“That honestly is one of the best parts of being a cheerleader,” Brittney Bott said. “The energy level you have is awesome. The crowd gets your energy up.”
The cheerleaders and dance team members get positive feedback from the community.
“The whole town cares so much about the Bearcats, going to the games and cheering,” Taylor Iacarella said. “Going to Hy-Vee and having people recognize you is cool. To be known around town and in a community that cares so much about the teams is nice.”
For the rest of this week, though, the focus is on the 150 seconds on Saturday evening.
“It is the most nerve wracking hours of your life, waiting to compete and then it is 2 minutes and 30 seconds of complete madness,” Taylor Iacarella said. “It happens so fast. We have been working four months for 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Once the music starts, you got to be ready. It is so hard to keep your emotions down.”
So it is understandable why a few cheerleaders might have been just a little distracted at the start of this week.
“I’m trying to keep myself as calm as possible,” Brittney Bott said. “We also started school so I’m trying to get into a groove. This week is kind of chaotic, but I’m trying to keep myself calm and not stressed out because the next two days are important in practice.”
Reed Iacarella has the perfect ending. Saturday is his brother’s final performance as a Bearcat cheerleader.
“What a way to end it all for him is for him and me go out there and help win a national championship,” he said. “That would be the best moment in our athletic careers - to be national champions. That’s the storybook ending we are looking for.”
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