LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky cheerleaders won their 22nd national championship at the Universal Cheerleaders Association competition Sunday, Jan. 15, in Orlando, Fla.
Competing among Division IA Coed squads, the Wildcats claimed the crown with an amazing score, 97.8 out of a possible 100 points. It was a night for Southeastern Conference excellence as Alabama and Ole Miss finished second and third, respectively.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Coach Jomo Thompson said. “Our preparation went very well and we performed at a high level. Our emphasis (leading up to the competition) was doing our best and if we trusted in the process it would lead us to the championship.”
Thompson was gratified by the combination of elements that led to the score, one of the highest ever for the highly accomplished squad.
“This is the highest degree of difficulty we’ve ever had,” the coach said of the team’s competition routine. “We added more acrobatic skills and more handstands, a good blend of cheers and acro. We executed it at a very high level, near perfect, I was very happy about that.”
This year’s win was the second in a row for the Kentucky cheer team. Although Kentucky has won 22 championships in the last 33 years, it is the first back-to-back triumphs since three in a row in 2008-10.
Kentucky won its first national championship in 1985, also winning in 1987-88, 1992, 1995-2002, 2004-06, 2008-10, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Dance Team turned in its best overall performance in school history at the 2017 Universal Dance Association event held Sunday.
Slotted in Division IA, the Wildcat dancers placed a very close second in the hip-hop competition and fourth in the Pom category – both of which are the highest finishes in school history in each category.
The University of Cincinnati won hip-hop with a score of 109.46, narrowly edging the Wildcats by less than a quarter of a point, as UK tallied 109.23. Kentucky saw an improvement of three places from last year, when the Wildcats finished fifth.
“Our performance in hip-hop was incredible,” Coach Dawn Walters said. “The girls did everything they could. It was a pretty spotless routine. It was an emotional piece – an a capella song by Pentatonix – different, and very moving. The fans absolutely loved it, so many people told us how awesome it was.”
Kentucky took home fourth place in the Pom dance category, with the University of Minnesota, Ohio State and Iowa claiming the top three spots. Again, it was a move up of three positions for UK, which was seventh in last year’s competition.
“The Pom performance was very well-rounded,” Walters said. “There were a lot of technical elements, a high degree of difficulty. It was very visual, a well-choreographed routine and exciting to watch. The girls had high energy and a very polished performance.”
The dance team and cheerleaders will be honored Saturday during the men’s basketball game vs. South Carolina.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught