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Winning never gets old: Cheerleading team captures 18th national title

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At some point the Kentucky cheerleading team is going to finish somewhere other than first. But that day is not today, nor does it looks it's coming anytime soon.

For the third straight year and the 14th time in the last years 16 years, the Kentucky cheerleading team has won the Universal Cheerleading Association national championship. UK captured its unprecedented 18th crown Sunday night at the 2010 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla.

The national championship, the most in Division IA, raised an already unmatched bar of dominance even higher. The Cats won with a score of 96.517, defeating second-place Alabama (89.517) and third-place Central Florida (88.517), both of which were led by coaches with UK ties.

"Each one we win is just as special as the first one," UK cheerleading head coach Jomo Thompson said via cell phone Sunday night from Orlando. "It is great to see the kids work so hard and accomplish a goal. We did what we set out to do: win another national title."

But will winning it all ever get old? Apparently not for the eighth-year head coach, who has captured six national titles as coach of Kentucky.

"No, it never gets old," said Thompson, who also captured 12 championships in all (three as a member, three as an assistant and six as head coach). "I enjoy winning. I'm a very competitive person. I want to collect as many rings as we can get, and so does everyone else in this program. That's something that we strive for every year is to bring another one home. If we get second or third, we're not satisfied with that. We want first place."

Complacency is often what tears down even the best of the best dynasties. When you win it so much, what's the motivation the next year?

That's the year-end struggle Thompson and his squad must battle each and every year. Yet, amazingly, it's never knocked them off their pedestal of dominance.  

"It's important to keep the kids motivated because you don't want to ever get complacent," Thompson said. "What we do is we try to top the year before. We try not to worry about the competition. We just try to do better than the year before. Our goal next year is to do better than the year before."

It's a matter of beating the tradition, not the competition - toppling some of the all-time great UK teams.

"You're standing on the shoulders of the people before you," Thompson said. "When you're done with the program, that's your time. That's when people look back towards you. You helped create that lineage and that legacy, so try to keep those people before you proud. And when it's their turn to step away and have someone to step in their shoes, they'll experience that same pride and joy seeing the University of Kentucky carry on."

Thompson said they achieved near-perfect routines last year and in 1997. The decorated head coach said he'll have to go back and review this year's tape before comparing it to some of the best UK teams, but he sounded fairly certain Sunday night that this routine might have topped them all.

"We really upped the level of difficulty with pyramids, tumbling, creativity wise and I think the kids just did an awesome job of bringing it together," Thompson said.

What might have made 2010 even more special is that unforeseen adversity the Cats had to overcome. Three key members of the team came down with what Thompson described as a "stomach bug" over the weekend, but thanks to the help of trainer Meghan Newlin, all three were able to take part in the national championship routine.

The Cats' first title came in 1985 and they won eight straight from 1995 to 2002. UK lost out on first place in 2003 and 2007, but it still remains the only squad to win three, four, five, six, seven and eight national championships in a row.

And what makes every championship so special is what goes on behind the scenes to get there. While most of Big Blue Nation only sees the award-winning Cats when they're on the sidelines of UK's athletic events, there is tireless recruiting, long hours of practice and unmatched routines that must all come together for an unbeatable recipe of success.

"It starts with recruitment," Thompson said. "You look for people that are talented and have that competitive drive. They have to be able to come here and compete because we function in a pressure cooker. All of the kids come in being the best of the best from where they're from when they get to this program. Now they have to work even harder here to stand out. I think that helps to elevate our level of competitiveness and things that we're able to execute."

It might not be their first title and it almost certainly won't be their last, but winning the national championship will never get old.

"It's still sweet," Thompson said. "It doesn't matter how many times you win. When you win again, it's just as good as the first time."

The UK dance team, under the new direction of first-year head coach Dawn Duncan Walters, finished fifth at the national championships in the pom category, two spots higher than last year's finish in the jazz category.

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3 Comments

Way to go, UK cheerleaders!

I really agree with this
"Each one we win is just as special as the first one," UK cheerleading head coach Jomo Thompson said via cell phone Sunday night from Orlando. "It is great to see the kids work so hard and accomplish a goal. We did what we set out to do: win another national title."

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  • Cassidy Abe: I really agree with this "Each one we win is just as special as the first one," UK cheerleading head read more
  • Rachel: Way to go, UK cheerleaders! read more
  • Sweden Study: like it..thanks for sharing Study in Sweden .. read more
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