CONWAY, Ark. (UCA) -- The University of Central Arkansas' Small Coed cheer squad recently won a national championship for the second straight year at the NCA/NDA Collegiate National Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Small Coed squad was in first place after the preliminaries and then won with a final score of 94.53 with zero deductions. Stephen F. Austin was second and UT Arlington was third.
"After all the ups and downs this team had gone through _ from members quitting the team to serious injuries _ for them to win shows their true character and a willingness to work hard. I am very proud of them,' said Jayme Ryan, small coed coach.
"This team set out from the beginning to win another national title and indeed they did,' said Tiffany Black, small coed coach. "Jayme and I pushed them to their limits, and in the end they were victorious. I couldn't be more proud of UCA Small Coed.'
UCA's Large Coed finished fifth overall with a score of 88.73 after having 7.0 points deducted because of falls on the finals mat. UCA outscored every team in its division in tumbling, jumps, choreography and overall effect.
"It was a wonderful feeling going into finals knowing that the only team who could beat us was ourselves,' said UCA large coed coach Ryan King. "The team had a wonderful performance on Day 1 and proved they were the most talented team in their division. We were the last team in our division to compete on Day 2 and everyone involved knew all we had to do was our individual jobs.
"Sadly the team was unable to perform to the standard they had set for themselves and finished the competition with a very disappointing fifth-place finish. However, the teams have progressively gotten better and better with each passing year. The coaching staff is very optimistic that the outcome of next year will be in the Bears' favor.'
UCA's Dance Team competed in the Team Division for the first time and finished ninth overall. The division combines jazz, hip hop and pom into one routine. UCA was in the top half that automatically advanced to the championship round. The squad is coached by Jennie Strange and Jennifer Gattin.
"Our dance team has come a long way,' said Strange. "It was only about six years ago that this team didn't even have a real coach. Each year we get a little further and our technical level increases. Our girls making it to finals this year was another big step.'
All the UCA spirit squads are under the direction of Maegan Dyson, a former UCA cheerleader who competed on several Top 3 national squads while at UCA.
"Our large coed started competing at NCA/NDA College Nationals in 1999,' said Dyson. "To go from that to three teams and a mascot, an entire spirit program, not only going to nationals but going and having a presence - it's an awesome thing to witness.
"Small coed winning back to back national championships is huge. It puts us on the map and draws prospective students to our campus. I can't even explain how great a feeling it is to be 18 hours from home and have people coming up to you, knowing who UCA is and there just to watch us.'