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UK cheerleaders seek 18th national championship

University of Kentucky basketball isn't the only squad with a winning tradition.

The UK cheerleaders are preparing to compete this weekend for an unprecedented 18th national championship from the Universal Cheerleaders Association.

Precision and perfection are the key to winning at the 2010 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships, Coach Jomo Thompson said.

To that end, he said, in addition to daily practices, the squad is performing live to be fully prepared for the competition, which starts Friday in Orlando, Fla.

The squad performed its two-minute routine at Lexington's Morton Middle School on Tuesday. The team will have a public practice at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Seaton Center, off University Drive on UK's campus.

The UK cheerleading squad has won the national competition eight times in the past 10 years. If the team wins this year, it will be the third title in a row.

The UK dance team also will travel to Orlando this weekend, for the Universal Dance Association nationals.

The dance team placed seventh at the contest last year. It has never won a UDA national title, considered the sport's highest honor, but it took first place in the 2005 United Spirit Association College Nationals.

National competitions are nothing new for the dance team's coach, Dawn Duncan Walters. She was a member of the UK cheer squad when it won its first two national titles, in 1985 and '87.

"We are extremely excited," she said of the dance team, which is competing in the contest's jazz and pom categories (there's also a hip-hop contest). "I feel very confident that we can be in the top five in those divisions."

Winners in the cheer and dance competitions will be announced Sunday evening.

Starting Friday, the competition's performances will be broadcast on Varsity.com.