Right Here! Right Here!
Is the alumni cheerleading reunion.

Sept. 27, 2001

By Amanda Horvath

“Where the cheerleaders at?”

“Right here! Right here!”

Some 110 spirited alumni cheerleaders are “right here, right here” on the Notre Dame campus for a cheerleading reunion this weekend.

As cheerleading coach Jonette Minton explains, scheduling the reunion in conjunction with a home football game allows the opportunity for the alumni cheerleaders to perform the Notre Dame fight song at Friday night’s pep rally with the current cheerleaders. After the pep rally, alumni cheerleaders will gather for a reception and silent auction. Prior to today’s game, returning cheerleaders had a tailgate, followed by a dinner reception after the game. A mass and brunch Sunday morning culminate the reunion weekend.

The approximately 110 cheerleaders come in from across the country, representing almost the entire span of the Notre Dame cheerleading program. The program began in 1933 with James Clark and, according to reunion organizer Mary Denvir, a ’93 Notre Dame graduate, the oldest returning member is from the 1949 team. Denvir, now a teacher in Davis, Calif., says the alumni association was a key in contacting most former cheerleaders, but adds that word of mouth also has been important in locating many alumni.

Denvir and fellow organizer Jessica Roman decided to stage the event because they want to “encourage the same spirit from the first reunion held 10 years ago,” when both she and Roman were cheering for the Irish. Former cheerleader Andy Budzinski, currently working for South Bend radio station U93, also is looking forward to the reunion.

“All of the cheerleaders have talked about doing this for a few years, and it’s finally happening. We will hopefully be able to show our presence because we’ve been around a long time,” Budzinski says.

The alumni had a brief practice prior to the pep rally to “brush up on the moves” for the fight song, as Minton says. Budzinski, who cheered from 1993-95, serving as the leprechaun for the ’93 football season, is unsure that the practice helped.

“I admit I have put on at least 20 pounds after graduating from sitting behind a desk all day doing sales,” Budzinski jokes.

“I did crunches and push-ups to condition because I had to fit into the leprechaun outfit again for the pep rally performance.”

All current and former cheerleaders perform the same motions for the fight song. As Minton explains, there are eight established sets of motions, but those entitled “Betty” were selected for the pep rally performance.

“‘Betty’ stays on the ground at all times,” Minton says, as she is reluctant to let any of the alumni attempt stunts they have not performed for years.

Aside from the thrill of performing before a packed Joyce Center at the pep rally, alumni cheerleaders expressed excitement that the reunion will allow them to catch up with old friends and learn about the experiences of others.

“There are people coming from so many years back with so many different experiences, it’s great to learn more of what they went through,” former cheerleader Tara McKinney, class of 2000, points out.

Minton, who has been Notre Dame’s head cheerleading coach for eight years, echoes McKinney’s sentiments. She has kept in touch with most of her cheerleaders and is able to recite where all of her past cheerleaders are today.

“I am anxious to see all the kids. It will be fun to see who they have become,” Minton says.

Those attending the reunion receive a Notre Dame cheerleading memory book, compiled by co-organizer Roman, from alumni submissions. The book is filled with thoughts and memorable moments such as Budzinski’s experiences surrounding the 1993 football game pitting No. 1 Florida State against No. 2 Notre Dame.

” I remember doing a lot of radio and television interviews all week, but the best part was that pep rally. It was incredible, just incredible,” Budzinski says.

In recalling her most memorable moments, Minton mentions not only athletic events but also the various service events she and her squads have taken part in over the years, stressing the importance of cheerleaders as well-rounded individuals. Minton feels a great sense of pride for each cheerleader she has coached, as she is adamant in her praise of the individuals on her team.

“I consider them to be ambassadors. Cheerleading is not all athletic ability. It’s in the heart as each cheerleader has to be the right person,” she says.

Minton says her squads participate in a variety of service activities not only in the South Bend area, but also in areas where the team has traveled around the world. It is her goal is to “take part of the University to the people we see as we travel to around the country and the world.”

McKinney seems to speak for all Notre Dame cheerleaders, past and present, as she expresses growing excitement surrounding both the start of the football season and the reunion.

Currently enrolled in the Notre Dame graduate school studying theology, McKinney says, “I just watched Rudy the other day, and it hit me that football season was coming so soon. I still know many of the current cheerleaders. I still know what they go through. I’m just excited for the weekend.”

-Amanda Horvath is a student assistant in the Notre Dame Sports Information Office.