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‘The kids were awesome!’ UK cheerleaders make it 23 national championships

University of Kentucky cheerleaders line up following a game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Virginia Tech Hokies at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Dec. 16, 2017.
University of Kentucky cheerleaders line up following a game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Virginia Tech Hokies at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Dec. 16, 2017. aslitz@herald-leader.com

The University of Kentucky cheerleading squad executed a “near-flawless” routine and brought home its 23rd national title Sunday evening in the Universal Cheerleaders Association College Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

The win also marked UK’s third national title in a row for Coach Jomo Thompson’s squad.

“I’m incredibly happy, the kids were awesome!” Thompson said in a UK press release. “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.”

The Wildcats scored 97.3 out of a possible 100 points in the finals against 13 other top teams. The 16 member team, nine men and seven women, plus two alternates had been perfecting their routine for months.

“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 in the release. “’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 is the first three-peat for the Cats since 2008-2010. The Cats’ 23 titles have come in 34 years beginning in 1985.

The cheer squad and UK’s dance team, which took home two top 10 finishes in its college nationals will be honored Saturday during the Kentucky-Florida men’s basketball game.

Some of Kentucky’s cheerleaders will likely try out for the USA Cheer national team on Monday, but all of them will be part of USA Cheer’s team that will be going to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month. The team will perform exhibitions, take part in medal ceremonies and compete in an international friendly against other national teams.

Kentucky bested a home-crowd boosted effort by Central Florida, which took second. Ohio State took third.

Morehead doubles up

Morehead State’s coed and all-girl cheer squads each claimed national championships in their divisions on Saturday.

The the co-ed team won its 26th national title and third in a row in the D1 division. Meanwhile, the all-girl squad won its 12 first place trophy and fourth in the last five years after finishing second last year in D1.

MSU’s Beaker placed fourth in the open mascot competition for smaller schools.

Eastern Kentucky finished fourth in D1 co-ed.

Western Kentucky’s co-ed and all-girl squads each finished ninth in D1A.

Top 10s for UK dance

The Kentucky dance team placed fifth in the hip hop competition and sixth in the pom competition in Division IA.

The hip hop routine brought a message of peace and unity aided by their unique costumes for the number which include long silver gloves they helped them form words and symbols in the routine.

“Every arm movement sliced shiny shapes across the stage; lines, waves and formations changed and flowed with the music. Hard-hitting, feminine, and powerful — their routine was incredibly fun to watch,” a story on Tv.varsitytv.com stated.