‘The work is done.’ Caitlin Barenbaum leaves behind a legacy with UK STUNT


Samuel Colmar

STUNT senior Caitlin Barenbaum poses for a photo on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at Nutter Field House in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

With the second ever varsity season for Kentucky STUNT just around the corner, it’s hard to imagine the season will mean more to anyone than Caitlin Barenbaum.

One of six seniors on a team of 40 athletes, Barenbaum’s entire collegiate experience has been intertwined with the STUNT team on campus, beginning her journey with the team years before it became a varsity sport for the university.

Having been on the cheerleading and softball teams for Grayslake North High School in Grayslake, Illinois, Barenbaum was no stranger to hard work heading into college. 

Her journey with STUNT in particular was unexpected for even Barenbaum herself, with her story with the program beginning the same way many stories do for college students: being bored freshman year and simply wanting to be involved in something on campus.

Originally looking at joining the club softball team on campus, she came to discover STUNT, which was a club sport at that time, and after a quick call to her high school cheer coach, she was set on joining.

“She (Barenbaum’s high school cheer coach) gave me the rundown on everything and told me what it was, and I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll go try out,’” Barenbaum said. “Once I made the team, it just went from there. I took over as president of the club at the end of my freshman year and kind of helped the path to us becoming a division-1 sport, so it’s been a dream come true really.”

With the club earning “recommended sport” status her freshman year, Barenbaum dedicated much of the next year working hard to turn that recommendation into a reality and ensure that STUNT would be a varsity sport.

“That (recommended sport status) came with a lot of different club meetings as to what it actually meant and the different steps through that,” she said. “A lot of talking to the right people. I was in contact with Miss Sandy Bell a lot throughout that process and just asked her what she could tell me. There was a lot she couldn’t tell me so it was always kind of a struggle, but keeping in touch with her and really getting those different connections made it so that we kept STUNT in her head and we could keep moving up.”

Being an ambassador for the club was far from all of Barenbaum’s work to ensure STUNT would receive varsity status, with the then-sophomore working hard as president to ensure the team as a whole followed all university guidelines and didn’t find itself in any trouble that would put varsity status at risk.

“(I had to) make sure it was a program that they (UK) wanted to represent,” Barenbaum said. “As much as it was a lot of work, it was also pretty easy because most of the girls that were on the team really wanted this too, so I think that communal drive we all had to become Division-1 athletes was really helpful, because no one wanted to screw it up. No one wanted to be that person. Everyone got a guideline that everyone followed nearly to a tee.”

Finally, Barenbaum’s efforts paid off Sept. 10, 2021, when UK Athletics announced STUNT as the newest varsity sport on campus. Barenbaum, after all her hard work, had the news broken to her through an Instagram post.

“It was actually kind of funny because no one from athletics could tell us until the official press release went out, so I found out through Instagram,” she said. “My mom called me and was like, ‘Did you see this?’ and I was like, ‘See what?’ She told me to open Instagram right now and so I did.”

While her campaigning had paid off, the work was far from done, with the announcement not only adding a ton of excitement but also posing many questions that needed to be answered.

“The next day (after the announcement) I was sitting in meeting after meeting with everyone in athletics trying to get everything organized,” Barenbaum said. “It was kind of a crazy process and it was really exciting.”

The promotion to varsity status also meant a promotion in amenities, with the team moving out of their old practice building in the Seaton Center and into Memorial Coliseum.

“We got to move over to Memorial to practice and that was, like, a huge deal,” Barenbaum said. “(We had been practicing) in Seaton, so we had these little tiny mats that we were rolling out every day. Our first day in Memorial, we all just walked around looking at everything. I think we’re really appreciative that they put us in this position and gave us the opportunity because truthfully, even as president, I felt like I was doing everything I could, but we weren’t quite sure it was going to happen.”

Barenbaum said her biggest motivating factor that kept her going was just wanting to leave something behind and leaving her mark on the campus.

“This will be my legacy,” she said. “I think just leaving something behind (pushed me to keep going), and not only pushing myself but pushing these younger girls because I know how hard it was for us to get here. Practicing outside in the snow during COVID with masks on and way too many hoodies. Just the difference from then until now, it’s really something that I want to make sure everyone else knows, like what it took to get here so that legacy and that journey isn’t forgotten about.”

Barenbaum added that the day she found out STUNT had earned varsity status is her favorite memory from her entire collegiate experience.

“Yes, I want to graduate and get my degree and all of those things, but I had to keep working towards that and (it felt) like the work is done,” she said. “I just needed to let it happen, so I think that day was huge. I finally accomplished what I wanted to do.”

UK STUNT’s second varsity season, and final season for Barenbaum, is set to kick off on Saturday, Feb. 4, with the annual Blue-White scrimmage. The team will then take a trip to Texas for the Dallas Baptist Tournament, facing off against Arizona State, Jessup, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State from Feb. 16-18 to begin the regular season.