The Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos won first place for the fourth time in five years at Homecoming Week’s Organized Cheer dance competition on Nov. 1, finishing just ahead of Association of Commuter Students.
FEC’s win earned them 130 points in the race to be the overall winner of Homecoming 2017, which they won this year in a tie with ACS that was announced at Saturday’s football game. Events hosted throughout the week include a spirit competition, a banner competition, the homecoming parade and the decorating of the Spirit Tree. Clubs earn different amounts of points for each competition. ACS earned 115 points for finishing in second place. The Council of International Students finished third, earning 100 points. COISO was also the third-highest scoring organization in the overall Homecoming competition.
Last year, the United Black Students organization put a halt to FEC’s then four year winning streak in O-Cheer, and UBS also won the overall Homecoming week. Now, on the organization’s 50th anniversary, FEC once again dominated the competition in the skit event.
Junior Thomas Franchi, social chair for FEC, said Homecoming week is “the best time of year” not only because of the festivities around campus but because of the overall impact it has on student participation.
“Performing in Homecoming is what really gets people involved, not only with our organization but with the U as well,” said Franchi, an exercise physiology major.
This year, student organizations executed performances revolving around “The Magic in U,” this year’s Homecoming theme. Each team was assigned a specific magical fairy to represent and given a “random dance move” to incorporate into a skit. Most of the skits included capes, magic wands and costumes. More than one team referenced the “magic” UM’s football team would need to have on last Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech.
Students filled the Lakeside Patio to watch the event and support their organizations. The excitement was tangible as each club gathered together to practice cheers before heading onto the stage to perform.
For some students, O-Cheer is the most-anticipated Homecoming event.
“You get to see the personalities of the different organizations and what culture they bring to our school,” said sophomore communications major Emily Gossett, a member of COISO.
However, for the student organizations that participate each year, O-Cheer also serves as a way to get new members involved and acclimate to UM. Many of the organizations that participated in the competition practiced for over a month leading up to it, usually several times a week.
Franchi said Hurricane Irma cut FEC’s practice time in half. Normally, FEC practices for about a month and a half to prepare, but this year they were only able to practice for three weeks. The hours and hard work put into the dance routine fostered camaraderie among members.
ACS provides a much-needed way for commuters to meet other students. Annabelle Menendez, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said that being in ACS has helped her establish connections with other UM students while commuting from home.
“Being in ACS means a lot to me because it has given me friends that I might not have met otherwise,” Menendez said.
Some UM students said O-Cheer gives them the opportunity to get outside of their comfort zone and try something different. For Alejandro Sanchez-Oribe, a junior majoring in business technology, finance and management, the chance to get onstage and dance in front of other people is something he anticipates every year.
“I’m not normally the kind of person who goes up on stage and does this kind of stuff,” Sanchez-Oribe said. “Everything coming together just makes me feel proud enough to go onstage and have no fear of what people think of me.”
Even for upperclassmen who have been involved with student organizations on campus for years, Homecoming Week, particularly O-Cheer, is an opportunity to take a break and reconnect with other members in their respective student organizations.
“Because even though we meet every week, sometimes a lot of people can’t make it,” said Naomi Ellis, a member of SpectrUM majoring in journalism. “This event brought a lot of people together.”