A Vancouver Island cheerleader takes her enthusiasm to the …

A Port Alberni entertainer recently had the opportunity to perform on an international stage.

Port Alberni-bred Maria Banman was part of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack cheer team that traveled to the 2023 College World Cup Cheer Championships in Orlando, Florida, from January 13 to 15.

The weeks leading up to the event were “very nervous,” Banman said.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life so far,” Banman said. “It was really fun because it was full of people working for the same thing.”

The team finished third in the world in the Game Day category, and fourth in the Premier All-Girl category. The Premier category involves more delay, Banman explained, while the Game Day category is more “traditional” animation. It’s about getting the audience involved, with chants, pompoms and dancing.

WolfPack co-coach Heather Crawford said it was an “amazing” experience leading the team to the world championships. Although TRU’s cheer team is still a fairly young program, they competed in the event in 2020 and were able to compete in 2021 (although the event was canceled due to the COVID- 19).

“Each and every athlete poured their heart and soul into the practices leading up to this competition and it paid off,” Crawford said. “I’ve always been proud of this program, but seeing what the athletes accomplished on that mat will stay with me forever. This cheerleading program has grown exponentially since my time as an athlete, and I’m honored to continue being part of this program now as a coach.”

Banman is in his first year of college at TRU. She is currently studying sociology, although she hopes to enter the school’s law program. When she was applying to schools, Banman said cheerleading is what made her look at TRU as an option.

“I liked that the animation team was always posting on social media, so I could keep up with what they were doing,” she said.

Banman was on the Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) cheer team throughout his high school career, which taught him the basics of cheerleading. In her year 12, she was named one of the captains of the team.

“It made me look at joy from a different perspective,” she said. “It has helped me change the way I listen and talk to others. My ADSS coaches have definitely helped me get to where I am today.”

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