For Caitlin Krenn, the highlight of her four years of cheerleading on the Rutgers All Girl Cheer squad has been this year’s home game against Penn State. Running out of the tunnel at the start of the game into a packed stadium of 55,000 cheering fans was a once in a lifetime experience for this seasoned athlete who has been cheering since grade school. The night sky was illuminated by red fireworks, and a professional photographer captured the image of the cheerleaders with that beautiful light show above their heads.
“I have a poster in my house of that picture. It is amazing to actually have a photograph of such a special moment. It was an exciting event, the biggest game of the past four years, and I felt overcome with nostalgia about my years of cheerleading as they come to an end,” says Krenn.
The Rutgers Cheerleading Team is ranked among the top 10 in the nation, and being a part of that team, whether on the All Girl Cheer or Co-ed squad, is a year-long commitment. During the summer, the teams practice and attend UCA College spirit camp. Fall is a busy season with football games, practices, fundraisers and community service events. During the winter months, team members cheer for the men's and women's basketball teams and travel to post season tournaments in March. The highlight of the season is attending UCA College Nationals in mid-January, which requires many practices during winter recess.
Krenn estimates that her commitment to cheerleading is between 15-20 hours per week. Football game days begin early with the teams selling 50-50 raffle tickets and connecting with fans to represent the school. One of Krenn’s favorite aspects of being a cheerleader is the travel to multiple states for away games and the many people she has been able to meet.
“I genuinely love everything about cheering, especially the comradery and the family I have on the team. Family is a big thing across all Rutgers Athletics and we say that family means ‘Forget About Me, I Love You.’ I feel like I have 27 sisters, and that is a beautiful thing.”
The All Girl squad is preparing extensively for their major competition in Orlando, Florida in January at the UCA/UDA Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship. In 2013 the team medaled with a third place win and last year they came in fifth. Krenn is hopeful that this is the year that the squad will medal again.
Cheerleaders receive a varsity letter and small stipend for their year-round efforts. For anyone who doubts the athletic ability of cheerleaders, the current All Girl team can do full ups and double down dismounts from multiple body positions and complicated transition stunts. The high flying stunts require coordination, athleticism, practice and a degree of daring that make them not for the faint of heart.
“People don’t always realize that Rutgers has a Division 1 cheerleading squad or the level of commitment that involves. It takes an incredible amount of effort to be on the squad because at that level the cheer teams from other schools are extremely competitive,” she says.
Krenn, who also excels off the field in the coursework for her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, works hard to combine the demands of cheerleading with a rigorous academic schedule. Although it is a juggling act, Krenn says she was not willing to give up either her sport or passion. She was recently accepted into the Rutgers Nu Omicron Chapter of the Phi Alpha Honor Society, a national honor society for social work students.
“Social work is the kind of profession you are called to and I always felt I had a natural aptitude for it. I have known since middle school that I wanted to go into a helping profession and when I came to Rutgers, my social work classes solidified that feeling,” she says.
Krenn’s family members are all educators and her plan is to get a master’s degree in social work and use that experience in a school setting.
“Caitlin’s warm, effervescent personality translates on the field as a cheerleader and will serve her well in a career in social work. She shows dedication in all she does, and has an abundance of spirit,” says DuWayne Battle, director of baccalaureate program for Rutgers School of Social Work.