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Pulling for the Panthers

Butler competitive cheerleaders McKee, Buser to continue careers at Pitt

BUTLER TWP — Alaina McKee and Ben Buser have been competitive cheerleaders in the Butler Area School District for a few years.

Butler cheerleaders Alaina McKee and Ben Buser (both seated), recently signed letters of intent to continue their academic and cheerleading careers at Pitt. Joining them are, standing, from left. Butler assistant cheer coach Marianne Miller, Alicia McKee, Amy and David Buser, and Butler cheer coach Kristin Karam. John Enrietto/Butler Eagle

Now they’ve graduated — but they’re not through with cheerleading yet.

Both are continuing their academic and cheerleading careers at the University of Pittsburgh. McKee will study toward becoming a physician’s assistant while Buser plans to go into nursing.

“We’ve probably sent 10 cheerleaders on to college programs in the last couple of years or so,” Butler cheer coach Kristin Karam said. “Alaina and Ben have excellent leadership qualities.

“They’ve learned to excel in time management. Cheerleading is like a full-time job for these kids.”

McKee also considered Ohio State and Penn State before deciding on Pitt. Buser looked at Ohio State and Kentucky before opting to join the Panthers.

“I missed the (Pitt cheer) tryouts because that was the week of the prom,” McKee said. “I had to do a video submission. When I learned I was selected, I was so excited.”

Buser said he knew he couldn’t get to the tryouts — also because of the prom — and was unsure whether he would get a chance to earn a spot on the team.

“I talked to them, was able to send some stuff and got picked,” Buser said.

Pitt has a separate game-day cheering squad — which McKee and Buser will both join — that cheers at football and basketball games, along with other home sporting events. The Panthers also have a competitive cheer squad which is a consistent national contender.

Theresa Nuzzo has been head cheerleading coach at Pitt since 1982. She is owner and co-founder of Elite Cheerleading, Inc., and led Pitt to the national championship in 2019. She also led the program to three successive national titles from 1992-94.

Pitt has 55 cheerleaders on its roster, including 12 males.

“I’m not going to try out for the competitive team my first year,” McKee said. “I want to adjust to college first, not get involved with too much, too fast.”

Buser is the fifth Butler male cheerleader to move on to college cheer since the Golden Tornado cheerleading program went coed a few years ago.

Karam is confident McKee and Buser will perform well for the Panthers.

“I know how strong a program Pitt has,” Karam said of cheerleading. “I also know Pitt is lucky to be getting both of them.”

Buser said he’s excited to be joining a coed cheer program with so many men on the squad.

“You can do more of a physical routine with a lot of guys,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Butler’s cheerleaders have won four PIAA Spirit championships since 2013. They’ve placed among the top 10 at the Universal Cheerleading Association Nationals in Orlando, Fla., 10 times.

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