When Susie Saxion became The University of Texas at Tyler’s cheer coach in 2003, little did she know the spirit program she began would develop so quickly within four years.
After realizing the university would start its athletics program in 2003, Saxion, a former college cheerleader herself and cheer coach at Texas Tech University, took on that same leadership role for the first UT Tyler Patriot squad when the first cheerleading tryouts were held April 2003.
That first year, Saxion and the group spread their wings and learned what it took to become a cheerleading squad of a newly comprehensive university.
“We knew we’d be cheerleading, that’s how the program started, but because we were a new organization we needed to find what role we needed to take,” Saxion said.
As time went on, the spirit program expanded to include a dance team and Swoop, the eagle mascot. Saxion says Swoop has been a big part of the spirit program.
Creating a spirit program also puts a finishing touch on the university’s growing student body and activities while giving back to communities – near and far.
“I like being a part of the spirit program because the college is continuously growing, and as a cheerleader, I feel as though I am a big part of that growth,” said Ashley Fritsch, Carrollton sophomore. “It is really fun to share in the teams’ victories throughout their season.
"I think my favorite part this past year was being able to go to New Orleans when we played the University of New Orleans in basketball last December. The basketball teams helped out with Habitat For Humanity to build houses for Katrina victims, and the cheerleaders went to deliver gifts to the local children’s hospital. That was a really great feeling to brighten up someone else’s holiday.”
From attending the various UT Tyler games, to homecoming events, to food drives, the cheerleaders have been busy. The group recently started working with the local Boys and Girls Club. Saxion said she is pleased – not only with the cheerleaders but the spirit program in its entirety.
“It’s about being part of the games and part of the whole university life,” Saxion added. “We have a dual goal – to promote athletic departments and athletics and work with the students to get them to support athletics. We also want to be a proud symbol of what is good about our university.”
One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of nearly 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.