LEXINGTON, Ky. – “Keep Climbing” is the motto Coach Jomo Thompson instilled in this year’s University of Kentucky cheerleading squad. And, keep climbing is exactly what the team did – all the way to the national championship.
The UK cheerleaders won their 23rd national title – including their third in a row – at the Universal Cheerleaders Association competition Sunday night, Jan. 14 in Orlando, Fla.
Competing among Division IA Coed squads, the Wildcats claimed the crown with a score of 97.3 out of a possible 100 points.
“I’m incredibly happy, the kids were awesome!” Thompson said. “They peaked at the right time. We had a really good warmup. We had an impressive opening sequence and a near-flawless routine. I’m very excited for them and very excited for UK.”
Thompson pointed to a sequence early in the routine that sparked the team to victory tonight and also had inspired the team’s motto when practice began back in August.
“There is a section with three double-up pyramids that has a very high degree of risk and difficulty,” Thompson said. “That had been our albatross. Tonight they hit it, kept building on that and turned in a Grade-A performance.
“Going into the season we were very strong on all our acrobatic skills but knew we had a lot of work to do on our partner stunts,” Thompson continued. “’Keep Climbing’ became our motto. We had to improve our technique because the degree of difficulty (of the stunts) had increased so much. It’s a testament to the kids that they were able to do it.”
This year’s win was the third in a row for the Kentucky cheer squad. Although Kentucky has won 23 championships in the last 34 years, it is the first triple triumph since 2008-10. Thompson credits a change in practice method to helping the current streak.
“In 2015 we put in a new method,” Thompson said. “Instead of learning the whole routine at one time, we focused on parts – reps after reps after reps of the same part. It wasn’t fun for the kids but when we put it together, the routine was cleaner. Hopefully, we can continue that and win more championships.”
Kentucky won its first national crown in 1985, also winning in 1987-88, 1992, 1995-2002, 2004-06, 2008-10, 2012, 2014 and 2016-18.
The cheerleaders and dance team will be honored Saturday during the men’s basketball game vs. Florida.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught