As a student at Olin, Iowa, high school, Phil Mulligan wasn’t a cheerleader. Mulligan, a junior in mining engineering, earned 20 varsity letters playing football, track and field, baseball, basketball and golf.
That changed when Mulligan began college. Although he planned to focus on studies and not participate in sports, a friend’s encouragement led him to try out for the UMR cheerleading squad. “I found that cheerleading for UMR football and basketball was a great way to escape from the boredom of school, and an even better way to stay in shape,” he says. “These days, cheerleading means a lot to me.”
The UMR cheerleading squad is beginning to prove that the sport is more than jumps, chants and short skirts. “We will definitely be showing the crowd more elite stunting this year,” Mulligan says. “We have fairly intense practices. We start by having everyone run and complete a cardio workout, and then we work on stunts. We also lift weights three days a week.”
Lifting weights is how Mulligan retains the strength necessary to hold a woman in the air with one hand, occasionally lifting two female cheerleaders at once. In addition, “I think I will be able to introduce a few new stunts to the squad this year,” he says. “When we’re not in season, I try to find a gymnastics gym wherever I am, and stunt with whatever squad is there. Last summer, I worked with cheerleaders from the University of Texas–Austin.”
The opportunity to cheer for UMR sports is not something Mulligan takes for granted.
“My parents worked hard my whole life so my siblings and I could have better opportunities than they did,” he says. “I used to want to be just like my dad, but I realized that if I chose to be just like him, I wouldn’t be taking those opportunities they worked so hard to give me. That’s why I chose to go into mining and explosives engineering.”
That’s also why Mulligan pushes himself with everything he does. “I hope to see our team become a more elite squad,” he says. “Hopefully I will help the rest of the squad improve their abilities, just as they have helped me improve mine.”