LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Washington State University Cheer finished 12th overall after advancing to the finals, Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Universal Cheerleaders Association Cheerleading Team National Championships held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. WSU’s dance team, the Crimson Girls, also placed 12th in the Division IA Hip Hop division at the Universal Dancers Association Dance Team National Championships, Saturday, while also competing in the Jazz division.
Cougar Cheer is coached by Chris Opheim, in his second season with WSU, while the Crimson Girls are coached by third-year coach, Maggie Kazemba, a former Crimson Girl. Opheim is a former head judge at the competition and is a 10-year UCA staff instructor.
“Watch out for this new team [Washington State], there will be a lot of success in its future,” CEO/Founder Universal Cheerleaders Association, Jeff Webb said. “[It is] Definitely a team on the rise.”
“It was an exciting weekend for the WSU Spirit Squads,” Opheim said. “Cheer made it into the finals and finished 12th in their first time competing. The Crimson Girls also finished 12th in Hip Hop – their best finish ever at UDA Nationals. They had a strong showing in Jazz – their first time competing in that category, and that was in the most competitive division in the entire competition. With the young squads that we have in cheer and Crimson Girls, only three graduating seniors competed between both squads, there’s a lot to look forward to for the future. I think we accomplished what we set out to do, and that was to bring some attention to WSU.”
This year marked the first time WSU Cheer competed at the competition and the first time since 2008 that the squad competed in any competition. Cougar Cheer advanced to Sunday’s final with 12 other squads, after holding sixth place following the preliminary round. WSU became the first cheer squad since Kansas in the early 2000s to advance to the finals in its debut season at the competition. The Cougars had some unfortunate dropped stunts during the finals round.
Kentucky Cheer was crowned national champion after a stellar performance, claiming its 20th national title. Central Florida was second, followed by Alabama in third, Mississippi in fourth and LSU in fifth. WSU and LSU were the only schools west of the Mississippi River to advance to the finals.
Just nine teams advanced to the finals in the Hip Hop category of the dance competition, as the Crimson Girls placed 12th of 18 teams during the preliminary round. The finish is the best the squad has placed in Hip Hop at the UDA Championships in school history. Cincinnati won the competition, followed by UNLV, LSU, Memphis, and Kentucky in fifth. Minnesota won the Jazz division, followed by Tennessee, Ohio State, Arizona State and Colorado in fifth. This season is the first time since 2009 that the Crimson Girls competed at the UDA Dance Team National Championship after competing in the United Spirit Association Championships.
Sixteen of the 32 Cougar Cheer Squad members competed at the championships in Florida, including nine males and seven females. Of the 16 cheer members in Florida, seven were freshman while just one was a senior.
All 16 Crimson Girls competed at the Dance Competition, including 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.
WSU and Colorado Cheer became the first Pac-12 cheer squads to compete at the competition since Arizona State and Oregon State in 2006 and were two of just five teams west of the Mississippi River that competed this year (LSU, San Diego State and BYU). The Crimson Girls were one of three Pac-12 dance squads competing, joined by Arizona State and Colorado.