Katie Swaim and Lauren Verroco knew of each other by name only when they were students at Clay High School.
Both were cheerleaders for the Eagles, but when Swaim was a senior in 2004-05, Verroco was a freshman.
Swaim and Verroco still have something in common: both are varsity cheerleaders for Division I college programs. Swaim is a senior at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and Verroco is a freshman at Bowling Green State University.
Swaim, 21, the older sister of Clay senior basketball standout Matt Swaim, cheered at Clay during her freshman, sophomore and senior years. She tried out for the school’s dance team as a junior and also played keeper on the varsity soccer team all four years.
A nursing major who carries a 3.1 GPA, Swaim said she made the right choice to attend Xavier, which is about a four-hour drive from Oregon.
“My mom is from Cincinnati and I kind of wanted to go somewhere far, but not too far,” Swaim said. “It’s a great location and they have a great nursing program, and their basketball team is awesome. It’s so much fun to cheer for them, and we get to travel.”
Swaim, who is on the varsity basketball cheerleading squad, said the difference between cheering in high school and at a Division I school is huge.
“The atmosphere of the games - we have 10,000 people at our games,” she said. “We sell out a lot. We were just in EA Sports as one of the top 15 places to play in the country, so there is definitely an atmosphere.
“Here, you have people who want to cheer. In high school, it’s more of a fun thing to do. All my friends did it. In college, you have to be totally dedicated to it,” she said.
Xavier’s cheerleading program features a nine-girl, three-man Blue squad as well as a White junior varsity squad.
Swaim didn’t try out for cheerleading her freshman year, but she has been on the Blue squad the past three years. “I heard that my freshman year, 50 girls showed up for tryouts but not as many after that,” she said. “They made the requirements tougher after that. You had to know how to do a standing back hand spring. Once the requirements were more difficult, less girls came out. It was intimidating being the new girl coming in.”
Swaim said Xavier’s cheerleading squads perform a lot of tumbling during games. Participants practice twice a week in the fall, for about five hours a day. During spring semester, the squad practices once a week for three hours. The 5 feet 4 inch Swaim said she is medium to tall for a cheerleader.
“Some of us do partner stunts and some do all-girl stunting,” she said. “I’m a ‘base,’ so I definitely don’t fly. That was another reason I went to Xavier, because I knew I could base here. Other schools, you have to be a flyer and I don’t like being in the air that much.”
Xavier’s cheerleaders have accompanied the successful basketball program - former St. John’s Jesuit standout B.J. Raymond plays for the Musketeers - to faraway venues such as Phoenix, Ariz., Atlantic City, N.J. and Washington, D.C.
“That is definitely a bonus,” Swaim said.
Verroco, 18, a 2008 Clay graduate, is majoring in visual communications technology at BG. She was a four-year basketball and football cheerleader at Clay, and she also ran track her freshman year.
She says cheerleading came naturally.
“I used to do gymnastics, so I tumbled a lot,” she said. “I got into cheerleading and I just liked it. I could tumble and I was flexible, so I could do jumps and stuff.”
Verroco cheers for the Falcons’ football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball teams. BG has an all-girl squad, which Verroco cheers for, and a co-ed squad.
She said there is a “big difference” cheering in high school and in college.
“At Clay I was on the sidelines and we were more involved with tumbling and jumps and motion for the cheers,” said Verroco, who is 5 feet 3 inches. “At BG, It’s much more serious. We work out and we have to meet certain times for running miles. During summers, we have three-a-days. We run basically all day. We run timed miles and they have to be under seven minutes so we can get in shape.”
BG’s cheerleading squads work out on Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and have practices Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.
“We tumble and we do a lot of mounting,” Verroco said. “I’m a ‘flyer’ and I love it. I trust the people under me. That’s the biggest thing. If you don’t trust them, you’re going to get held back.”
Verroco said she’s never been dropped after being thrown in the air.
“There have been some close calls,” she said, “but they’ve always caught me. They will do anything to catch me.”
Verroco tried out for BG’s all-girls squad last April and beat out more than 50 girls to make the squad.
“I was really nervous,” she said. “I wanted it so bad. There was so much competition - it could have gone either way.
“When I found out I made it, I was so happy,” she said. “When I came home from BG the next day, my mom had ‘Congrats, Lauren!’ written on top of the garage. They had it up there for about a week. I think my mom and dad were more proud and excited than I was.
“They come to every single game.”