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iFly: Sam Salud

When 14-year-old Samantha Salud dismounted the balance beam and injured her head, she thought her gymnastics career was over.

“It was tragic,” she said. “Blood was everywhere.”

Salud said she made an error in measurement and flipped underneath the beam, hitting her head on the metal support rods below. Although she did not return to gymnastics for months, Salud said nothing could keep her away from the sport.

“Something about [tumbling] makes me feel like I’m seriously flying,” she said. “I couldn’t just quit.”

Now, the 19-year-old applied physiology and kinesiology sophomore flies in front of thousands each week in the Swamp as one of UF’s Gators cheerleaders.

Salud said her favorite gameday routine is “Two Bits” because it’s one of Florida’s biggest traditions, and the crowd really gets involved. Her other favorite part of the game is when the Gators take the field, she said.

“The stadium gets so loud,” Salud said. “At that point, I feel honored and excited to be a part of the Gator Nation.”

Those gameday traditions and stadium atmosphere played a major role in her decision to attend UF, Salud said. But she said it was a friend’s advice that led her to the cheer squad and some people who she now calls her best friends.

“Just the thought of cheering in front of 90,000 people is horrifying,” she said. “But it has turned out to be a wonderful and humbling experience.”

Salud said she commits about 15 hours to cheerleading each week, and the squad cheers for various sports throughout the year – volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics and, of course, football.

Despite her busy schedule, Salud said it is possible to balance school, work and play. She said she always tries to schedule things ahead of time and make to-do lists in an effort to stay on task, but drinking lots of coffee is what really keeps her going.

Salud said her injuries have been a good way to build character. In addition to her head, she has also injured her ankles multiple times. These physical setbacks have inspired her to work in physical therapy one day, she said.

Tumbling was Salud’s life; therefore, she thought her life was over when she almost said goodbye to the double tucks and the double layouts for good.

Now, five years later, her life is cheering on the Gators with her squad – where she can fly.


Cara oversees Her Campus Media's community department and serves as strategic lead for the expansion, development and management of all HCM communities, including the Her Campus Chapter Network, InfluenceHer Collective, College Fashionista, Spoon University, Campus Trendsetters, alumni and high school. She works closely with company leadership to develop new community-related sales offerings and the Integrated Marketing team to support all community-focused client marketing programs from end to end. Cara has experience working with high-profile talent, such as Jessica Alba, Andrew Yang, Amber Tamblyn, Aja Naomi King, Troian Bellisario, Jessica Marie Garcia, Nico Tortorella, Nastia Liukin, Rebecca Minkoff, Cecile Richards and Samantha Power, as well as brands like Coca-Cola, L'Oréal Paris, The New York Times, HBO, Uber, H&M and more. Having been a part of the HC family since 2011, Cara served as Campus Correspondent of the HC chapter at the University of Florida where she studied journalism, women’s studies and leadership. A New Yorker turned Floridian, Cara has a Friends quote for any situation. You can usually find her with her friends and family at the beach, a concert or live sports event or binge-watching Grey's Anatomy or Sons of Anarchy. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @thecararose.
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