By J.O. Parker
Kennedy Roland, a sophomore at South Dakota State University and 2020 Grinnell High School graduate, has recently took her love of cheering to a new level.
Roland and the SDSU Jackrabbits placed fourth nationally out of 18 schools in the Open All Girl Game Day Division at the 2022 UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) Collegiate National Cheer Finals, Jan. 14-16 in Orlando, Fla. at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“Kennedy and her teammates faced many challenges this year – injuries, sickness, balancing school, practice and games,” noted SDSU Cheer Coach Quiana Pardee. “Our team was the first SDSU Cheerleading program in school history to compete in person at the 2022 UCA College Nationals hosted in Orlando, Fla.”
The fourth-place finish comes on the heels of a national championship in the Open All Girl Game Day Division at the 2021 UCA Collegiate National Cheer Finals, which was held in April and done virtually due to the pandemic. SDSU competed against three other teams to win the top prize.
“Last year, we competed for the first time in school history in the online division and won,” Roland said. “The online division was due to the pandemic and provided a great opportunity for my team to start competing.”
Roland, 19, is the daughter of Dan and Jeralene Roland. At GHS, Roland was part of the football cheer and the competition team.
She opted to attend SDSU to experience life in a new place and to be more independent.
“SDSU was a great option for me because it is out-of-state but has a tuition reciprocity program for neighboring states, making it more affordable compared to other schools,” Roland said. “It is big enough to provide many unique opportunities, but still small enough that I see people I know when on campus. The all-girl cheer team was also a motivator for coming here, as my skill set fits better on an all-girl team.”
Roland is majoring in human biology on the pre-chiropractic track with a minor in chemistry.
“After completing my undergraduate degree, I plan to attend professional school to earn my Doctor of Chiropractic degree with a sports emphasis as well as a massage therapy degree,” she said. “Once my education is complete, I hope to work with a professional sports team.”
At SDSU, Roland cheers at football and men’s and women’s basketball games as well as many university events.
“I love the game day environment,” she said. “It is surreal to be on the field in a stadium filled with people who love the Jacks. I also love using athletic skills to entertain a crowd.”