Photo by Michael Spooneybarger

Photo by Laura Trejo

Cheerleaders Leap Like Champions
By Joe Velarde

Miners Win Conference

UTEP’s 19-member cheerleading team and Miner mascot Paydirt Pete made a splash in the spring when they beat 12 other universities to win their first National Cheerleading Association Co-Ed Division Championship. “We would’ve been happy to have finished in the top five,” said Jessenia Murillo, a sophomore communications major. “This is so much more than any of us could’ve expected.” Head coach David Vasquez cited the team’s tenacity and chemistry as the winning ingredients. “We needed to compete at the highest level to match the challenges of other teams that are used to competing on the national stage,” he said. Before they hit the stage, the team members huddled together and dedicated their performance to Ronny Jo Villareal, a 2001 UTEP alumna, former cheerleader and friend of Vasquez. Villareal, a successful Florida businesswoman, wife and mother, died of breast cancer almost a month before the championship performance. She visited the team in 2010 during a camp to deliver a message of strength and perseverance. Kaleena Roche, a senior kinesiology major, said Villareal’s memory was a powerful motivational tool. “We all remembered her message of ‘be strong, cheer strong.’ It kept our spirits up and helped us to give the best performance we could give,” Roche said. Vasquez said that while Villareal never cheered with this team, the former captain touched the hearts of every team member. “She taught the girls to go out and give it everything they’ve got – to appreciate life and to have no fear,” he said. “Her message helped propel them to success.”


By Joe Velarde

Ronny Jo Villareal ‘01 and her daughter, Maddy

The UTEP women’s golf squad was in full swing in spring 2011 – the team captured its first ever Conference USA title and also scored high in the classroom. “It’s a really big deal to us,” said head coach Jere Pelletier, who has headed up the UTEP program since 1994. He praised the team after its thrilling conference championship victory in April. “We played well, and the girls have been working hard,” he said. “It was really competitive the whole time and all the teams were really bunched up, but we certainly played our best. We couldn’t be happier.” It marked the Miners’ first conference title and the second in UTEP golf history. The Miner men claimed the Western Athletic Conference crown in 1985. Senior business major Teresa Nogues captured the individual championship, firing a 2–over 218. Pelletier, who was named 2011 C-USA Coach of the Year, said that the team members came together as a unit, made the most of their abilities and performed beyond their years. “The girls are finally starting to see that they can play consistent golf,” he said after the conference championship. “This team seems to buy into what I’m telling them and play the game the way they’re supposed to.” Four members of the UTEP women’s golf team have been “It was really appointed to the National Golf competitive the whole Coaches Association Division I All-American Scholar Team. In time and all the teams order to be eligible for the squad, were really bunched up, student-athletes must post a but we certainly played minimum cumulative grade point our best. average of 3.5 and be a significant contributor to the team. Jere Pelletier Representing the Miners on Women’s Golf Head Coach the scholar team are seniors Ana Pastor, Rosana Gomez and Liz Sobczak, and freshman Emma Edin.

Photo courtesy of David Vasquez

UTEP Magazine Fall 2011


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