Longtime friends and cheer teammates Ryann Bergen and Marisa Rogers once had different plans for college, only to end up at the same place.
They recently signed letters of intent to compete for the Hope International University STUNT team, and the accomplishment was celebrated last Sunday at the Victorious Elite All-Stars gym.
At one point, Bergen, a senior at Sierra High, figured she was done with competitive cheer and set on attending her dream school, the University of Oregon.
East Union’s Rogers, on the other hand, had a desire to compete at the next level and identified HIU as one of her top choices.
“I did not know that they were offering her (an athletic scholarship) until she had told me in December,” Bergen said. “I’m really proud of Marisa. “I’ve known her from VEA, but we have a separate relationship outside of cheer, and I’m excited to already have my college bestie.”
STUNT is a fast-growing sport that features different aspects of cheer. Teams go head-to-head in four-quarter games, and this format intrigued Bergen after she decided to step away from competitive cheer. Headed by director Amy Acaya and coach Angela Johnson, Victorious Elite All-Stars started a STUNT program late last summer, which ultimately opened up new opportunities for Bergen and Rogers.
“I’ve done cheer my whole life, starting with sideline cheer before moving to competitive cheer,” Bergen said. “At some point, I had fallen out of love with competitive cheer and just didn’t want to do it anymore. When I was introduced to STUNT, I liked that it was something different.”
Rogers’ interest was also piqued when VEA added STUNT to its program.
“Going into the club season, I just wanted to get more experience in the sport and see what it was all about,” Rogers said. “I definitely didn’t think it was something I’d be doing in college, but once I got started it got me excited, and I wanted to look further into it.”
Hope International University is a small private school out of Fullerton and with a low acceptance rate.
The Royals’ sports teams are members of the Golden State Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The second-year STUNT program went 5-11 in its inaugural season under accomplished coach Kori Johnson and is currently 3-0.
VEA’s STUNT team got acquainted with Johnson, assistant coach Kelly McCluskey and the rest of the Royals. It was then that the HIU coaches took notice of the 5-foot-11 Bergen.
“Coach Kori is such a good coach, and every girl on the team I’ve talked to loves her,” Bergen said. “I feel like she’s a really involved coach with her athletes all around. With VEA, it’s the same thing — Amy and Angela are very hands-on coaches and they’re always going to be there for you. They’re not always going to tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear, and that’s the vibe I pick up from Kori and Kelly, too.”
Rogers had already established a relationship with the HIU coaches before VEA’s visit. She discovered the school while attending a competitive cheer camp in Sacramento.
“That’s when I first had interest in the school, and a few months later when I found out our team was going down there, I was super excited,” Rogers said. “I connected with the coaches again, and they knew I was interested. Once I got accepted, they gave me an offer.”
Rogers considered bigger schools in Southern California and had options to compete in STUNT for smaller, private universities in Arizona. HIU had everything she was looking for.
“When I was looking at the different schools, it was not only for athletics,” she said. “I focus highly on academics, and I liked the fact that it was a smaller school. It’s pretty far from home, but I won’t have to force myself to be comfortable, because it’s going to feel like home pretty quickly.
“The coaches are super friendly, and the girls are, as well,” Rogers added. “I like the idea of us sharing dorms, it gives us a chance to get closer inside and outside of STUNT practices. The community seems really nice and positive.”
Rogers will major in psychology, while Bergen is studying communications. They are looking forward to taking this next big step together.
“Having a familiar face I’ve known for a really long time is going to be really nice,” Rogers said.