Sports Q&A: Melissa Latas
Most college athletes arrive on campus with years of practice behind them. Melissa Latas (Econ’17) had none in cheerleading. But she’d been a gymnast, and that put her in the running for CU’s Cheer Squad: Latas, of Castle Rock, Colo., made the team as a freshman. Now a senior, she talks about sports and community, her adoptive family and an injury’s unexpected benefit.
How did you end up starting cheerleading as a freshman in college?
I was starting my senior year [of high school] and ended up breaking my foot. I didn’t know what to do because [gymnastics was] what I’d done all my life. I had surgery. Then one of the people that coached at my gym said I could do cheerleading. I still liked tumbling, so I said I’d try that. I got cleared a month before [CU] tryouts and I started doing stunting privates. I figured I’d regret not trying out so I said, ‘I’ll try and see what happens,’ and ended up making it.
What did it feel like when you made the team?
I was really excited. I knew it was going to be really different. During tryouts I felt really out of place because I didn’t know any of these college stunting skills. But I was excited and I wanted to try something new. I knew it was going to be hard work, but it was OK. I made it, so I guess they saw potential.
How long did it take you to feel like, ‘I’ve got this’?
I kind of struggled a lot my first year. A lot of these people have been doing this most of their lives. I just felt behind. Probably at nationals my first year I felt like, ‘I know what I’m doing now.’
What is the best part about cheering?
I love that in such a big university I feel like a part of something and that I’m helping contribute to the university. Especially when it’s so big, you can feel lost. It’s hard to meet people. It’s hard to feel like you’re actually a part of something. I love the team because we’ve all bonded, since we’re always together practicing and training.
What has it been like to be on the sidelines cheering during the football team’s resurgence?
The crowd is much more engaged and they stay longer, they cheer with us, and they are actually excited about the Buffs. It’s been an amazing season to be a part of. I can’t wait to see what else they accomplish.
How old were you when your parents told you you were adopted?
They were always really open about it. My mom always says that I’m like her own child, I was the best thing that happened to them. It doesn’t feel like I was adopted at all. This is a family, and we’re both so lucky that we found each other.
What would you like to see or discover in China?
I’d go back with my mom or my whole family, just because I’ve never really been out of the United States, to see a different culture, not the exact place I am from necessarily.
Condensed and edited by Jennifer Osieczanek.