UAFS can now add another national championship trophy to its trophy case.
The UAFS cheer team won its first NCA Collegiate Cheer Intermediate Coed II Division National Championship on Friday at The Band Shell in Daytona Beach, Fla., out-performing nine teams over a two-day span to win the title.
It was the fourth overall national championship for the athletics program. UAFS won two national titles in men’s basketball (1981 and 2006) and one in women’s basketball (1995) while competing in NJCAA.
“There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved and a lot of injuries to overcome, but the kids wanted it bad enough that they fought through everything to get there,” UAFS cheer coach Stacie Kohles said.
It was the third consecutive year for the cheer team to compete in the NCA College Cheerleading National Championship. The cheer team’s previous highest finish was fourth place.
So, what was the difference this year?
“It was the team. It was the unity that they had, it was the skill level they had going in and it was the talent that they had,” Kohles said. “It was a lot of things that just came together this year.”
UAFS was one of six teams to advance to the finals of the Cheer Intermediate Coed II Division – Tyler Junior College, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Palomar College, the University of Texas-Dallas and Iowa Central Community College.
UAFS received a final score of 83.08 to win the championship. Tyler Junior College was runner-up with a score of 81.20. Iowa Central was third (80.68), followed by UT-Dallas (80.30), Lenoir-Rhyne University (78.78) and Palomar College (78.70).
UAFS received perfect scores (10 points) in the 45-second crowd segment and collegiate image categories. All but one team (Tyler Junior College) received perfect scores in both those categories.
Its next highest score was an 8.48 in choreography, which was the second-highest score in that category among the six finalists. Tyler Junior College scored the highest mark with an 8.50.
Kohles designed all of UAFS’ choreography, and that personal approach made a huge difference.
“Most colleges have to pay for routines, and they cost thousands and thousands of dollars. They (instructors) come in, teach the routine and leave,” Kohles said. “An advantage that we have is I do the choreography, so I know what they can do, what their weaknesses are, what we need to hide, what they do great and what we need to do a lot of. That helps.”
A key element of the cheer team’s choreography, Kohles said, was tumbling.
“We are very good at that,” Kohles said. “So, we focused a lot on tumbling.”
Only the top five teams after Thursday’s preliminary competition automatically advanced to the finals. UAFS was second to Iowa Central after the preliminary competition.
“Other than winning, the kids’ attitudes after prelims was the biggest highlight of the competition for me,” Kohles said. “We were in second, and they were very positive, very motivated and ready to go back and win.”
Tyler Junior College was among the four teams that didn’t automatically qualify for the finals. It had to compete again against the other three remaining teams in the Challenge Cup for a spot in the finals.
“Tyler won the Challenge Cup, so it got to move into the finals,” Kohles said. “It wound up finishing second. Tyler did much better the second day. Iowa Central was in first and finished third.”
The NCA Collegiate Cheer Championship will air on CBS Sports Network on May 3.
Cheer team members are: Libby Bailey, Lilly Dobbs, Miranda Croslin, Palmer Ling, Alec Pennington, Kayla McKinster, Andrea Wallace, Cassidy Riley, Trisha Crawford, Sam Mathews, Bennett Curry, Colette Ross, Priscilla Devora, Abbey Robbins, Jaycee Bieker, Khayla McKay, Casey Hudgens, Houston Holderfield, Chase Haninger, Nate Engelke, Kalyn Carter, Tristan Nolan and Emily Prince.
Kohles is assisted by assistant coach Branden Gregory.