PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s Cheer and Crimson Girls will compete at the Universal Cheerleaders Association and Universal Dancers Association College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships, Saturday through Sunday, Jan. 18-19, 2014, at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
This year marks the first time WSU Cheer has competed at the competition and the first time since 2008 that the squad has competed in any national competition. It’s the first time since 2010 that the Crimson Girls have competed at the UDA Dance Team National Championship after competing in the United Spirit Association Championships. WSU and Colorado Cheer are the first Pac-12 cheer squads to compete at the competition since Arizona State and Oregon State in 2006. They are two of just six teams west of the Mississippi River competing in the Division IA Cheer this year (LSU, San Diego State, Texas State and BYU). The Crimson Girls are one of three Pac-12 dance squads competing in the Division IA Dance, joined by Arizona State and Colorado.
Second-year Sprit Coach Chris Opheim is coaching WSU Cheer, while former Crimson Girl Maggie Kazemba, in her third year at WSU, is coaching the Crimson Girls. Opheim is a former head judge at the competition and a 10-year UCA staff instructor. The Cougar Spirit Squads are competing in the Division IA Cheer, Hip Hop and Jazz divisions, competing against Division I FBS school spirit squads.
“This is the first time cheer has competed at the national level at this competition and the first time the Crimson Girls have competed at this competition since 2010,” Opheim said. “While it’s taken a lot to get here for both groups, we’re not just content with saying that we’re going. We’re trying to put our stamp on the College Cheer and Dance scene as being the best from, not only the Pac-12, but that we’re a top flight spirit program in the nation.”
Sixteen of the 32 Cougar Cheer Squad members will compete at the championships in Florida, including nine males and seven females. Of the 16 cheer members in Florida, seven are freshmen while just one is a senior.
The cheer routines last two minutes and 30 seconds, of which 45 seconds must be crowd-leading cheer. The Cougars received perfect scores of 15 in crowd interaction tapes sent in prior to the competition, meaning the squad will not start down any points, giving it an advantage.
All 16 Crimson Girls will compete in the Dance Competition that boasts two seniors that were a part of the team that captured the hip hop championship at the United Spirit Association Championships in 2012 and placed third last season in the same category.
“Being that we have a lot of new faces this year, half of the cheer squad is freshman, half of the Crimson Girls are newcomers, why not go all out and compete at one of the largest and best competitions out there," senior and Crimson Girl captain, Chelsey Stout, asked. “We’ve set a standard for ourselves of not only making it into the final round for both groups, but trying to make an impact once we’re there. It’s very exciting!”
The dance routines last two minutes.
Over 100 schools are represented internationally in over 12 cheer and dance divisions. Preliminary rounds take place Saturday, Jan. 18 with the top 12 squads in each division advancing to the finals on Sunday, Jan. 19, which is taped for a later air date on ESPN.
“There’s a buzz about WSU Athletics, and you can feel that with all the sports,” Opheim said.
“We’re on the rise and the spirit program is too. We want to be a part of that conversation, that everyone is gunning for a championship when they come to WSU.”