Graduating college while competing as an NCAA Division 1 athlete is quite an accomplishment, but few of these high performers hit that milestone with a national championship (much less three!) under their belts.
Cabria Kirby graduated with bachelor's degree in journalism and media studies, and, as a member of UNLV Cheer, racked up three straight Universal Cheer Association (UCA) National Championships.
“Finishing my senior year this way is a dream come true,” Kirby says, “(and this year's championship) is the most rewarding win.”
Under normal circumstances, teams devote nearly a full year to perfecting their performance for the championships, which usually are held in person in Orlando, Florida. The television cameras are rolling and the crowds are typically packed full of family members and UNLV’s dance team, Rebel Girls and Co. All that helps to turn up the overall energy as each team performs one routine no longer than 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
“Whatever performance that is done on the floor is one that is judged,” Kirby says.
But things were much different with the virtual process. Teams weren’t cleared to practice until six weeks before nationals, the freshman class wasn’t picked until week four, and the event wasn’t even confirmed until a few weeks before. Teams then sent in a recording of their performances, giving judges the opportunity to replay and re-evaluate as many times as they please.
“The unrealistic demand of perfection has made this process extremely difficult for the team with technical difficulties, but all with the chance to keep recording to get the best video.”
Having won the national championships the previous two years, Kirby says, added even more pressure to the team. Competitors study the videos of past winners in hopes to take the title.
UNLV Cheer knows this and still finds a way to bring themselves to the next level — an untouchable level — each following year.
“To be a UNLV athlete is an honor," she says. "Head coach Alex White, assistant coach Karley Hughes, and former head coach Savanna Sibley have made being a UNLV athlete a dream come true. I love this university, this team, and this community.”
While Kirby's time on the mat has come to an end, she will continue to coach young athletes at a competitive all-star gym in Henderson to help the younger generation fall in love with the sport.
Kirby will also be pursuing her master's in communication from the University of New Mexico online with an end goal to either be a sports reporter or manage social media accounts for a professional sports team.
She also has a special message for aspiring college athletes: “Never stop working and chasing your dream. There is always a team that will need someone like you but never give up and find the team that needs you. Everyone has a chance. Find your people, your school, your coaches; be consistent; and train every day to be the best!”