YUMA, Ariz. – Tumbling and stunting. Leaping and turning. All words that encompass what it takes to excel in competitive cheer and dance. The Arizona Western College Spirit Team, composed of both a cheer team and a dance team, saw a pair of student-athletes sign to continue their academic and athletic careers. Kourtney Guthrie (cheer) and Aida Hiraldo (dance) both inked with Ottawa University-Arizona.
Hiraldo, a Yuma native, is headed to Ottawa University after one season at AWC. The transition represents a new opportunity.
“It’s a bigger step, and I’m the first in my family to go to college and therefore being the first now to go to a university, it’s a big deal for me,” said Hiraldo. “So I’m really thrilled to take that, and I’m ready for a new chapter in my life. I’m very excited.”
“She has been studying hard with her classes as a freshman,” said AWC Dance Coach Tiffany Minnick. “She has worked hard to become a better dancer, working on improving her technique.”
Competitive dance combines dance moves with leaps and turns that takes agility and balance to execute well. Competitions are scored by judges, and the Lady Matadors are headed to a competition this weekend.
For Guthrie, the trip to Ottawa University-Arizona will be an opportunity to stay in the state after coming to AWC from Anchorage, Alaska on the advice of her grandma.
“My grandma lives in Yuma,” said Guthrie. “She told me what a great program they had for nursing, and along the way I learned to love Yuma.”
“I think she’ll do well academically because she has been working in some upper-level classes here and is ready to move on,” said Coach Minnick. “For cheer, she is tall and can do multiple positions, which is vital for coaches.”
The Lady Matador cheer team competed two weekends ago, and Ottawa University-Arizona will also compete at the NAIA level. Competitive cheer takes both tumbling and stunting experience, and routines are scored by judges at competitions.
Ottawa University-Arizona is building its athletic teams and expects to play in both the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) according to the school’s athletics website. The campus in Surprise, Arizona is scheduled to open this fall, but the school has had a presence in Arizona since 1977 (per a press release).
Hiraldo and Guthrie are the first two Lady Matador Spirit Team members to sign with a four-year school this year.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.