Going out on top
NEWARK, Del. — As a Butler High School competitive cheerleader, Nina Hindman won her share of gold.
But after being part of Golden Tornado teams that won one PIAA championship and two WPIAL titles during her high school career, she wanted more. So she opted to extend her academic and competitive cheer career to the University of Delaware — where she found a whole lot more.
Delaware recently won its fourth consecutive UCA Small Coed Division national championship at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Hindman has been a part of all four of those titles. She has also been a member of the Blue Hens’ all-female squad that claimed its second bronze medal during her tenure there.
“Delaware’s had the reputation of having one of the best (competitive cheer) programs in the country,” Hindman said. “That played a big factor in my decision to go there. I wanted to be with the best.”
While doing so, she became one of the best.
“Nina is one of our captains for a reason,” Delaware cheer coach Ryan Blanford said. “She’s been great from the day she got here. She does everything the right way, on and off the mat.
“Nina quickly became a leader, a role model for others in the program. Her academics, personal wellness, how hard she works on the mat are all positive elements for them to follow.”
Hindman is carrying a 3.3 grade point average and will graduate in May with a business degree. She will begin a new job in her field in July and plans to get into cheering coaching in Western Pennsylvania.
“That’s my goal,” she said. “Cheerleading has been a huge part of my life. I believe I’ll be involved in it for a very long time. I’d love to come back, help out at Butler or at another school in the area, someday become a head coach at the high school level.
“I started out as a cheerleader for the South Butler Wildcats at Memorial Park. I’ve gone a long way since then and I’m proud of all of it. Cheering is my passion. It defines me.”
It’s kept her busy, too.
Besides competing for Delaware’s coed game day team and all-female squad — dealing with two totally different routines — Hindman is part of the cheerleading squad that does all of the Blue Hens’ football, basketball and volleyball games. She estimates putting in 25 hours a week between practices, games, competitions and lifting.
“It’s never felt like a job to me,” she said. “I love it too much. The degree of difficulty you have to perform at to succeed at this level is so challenging.”
Hindman described the game-day routine as being four minutes long and requiring a lot of positioning. The all-female routine is two minutes and 30 seconds long and requires a lot of physical skills and performances.
“They couldn’t be more different,” she said of the routines.
Blanford is in his third year as Delaware head coach. He was previously an assistant cheer coach at Ohio State and Cincinnati. He was a member of the University of Cincinnati coed cheer team.
“There is definitely pressure to win championships here, but that’s why I took the job,” Blanford said. “This year marks the 24th championship in the history of the program.
“How do we do it? Getting great kids like Nina. The reputation here attracts the best kids, people who are dedicated to the sport and have the desire and passion to succeed at the highest level. Our coaching staff is incredible here. Kirby Lynch is an assistant who won four national championships at Indiana and cheered for Team USA.”
Hindman admitted she never thought she’d become a four-time national champion at the collegiate level.
“Each year we would win, there was more pressure the following year,” she said. “At nationals, you win titles by less than a margin of one point at times. There’s not a lot of margin for error. This year ... the seven seniors on the squad wanted to win it so badly. We really wanted No. 4. It’s a tremendous way to go out.
“I’m 22 now. I think I was 3 when I started out. It hasn’t sunk in yet that this is my last season. It’s a surreal feeling.”