For the 10th consecutive year, the UCF cheer team has earned the right to call itself one of the top five squads in the nation. On Sunday, the team placed second in the College Cheerleading National Championships D1A Coed Competition.
The competition took place over two days at Disney's Wide World of Sports. The Knights were named runner-up to Alabama, missing first place by fewer than two points. They also placed second last year after the University of Kentucky.
But the UCF cheer team remains very happy about their accomplishment and ability to sustain such success.
"We're really proud of what we did out there. The feeling was great walking off of that mat," competitor Trent Parsons said.
Head coach Linda Gooch was definitely proud of her team after all the effort they'd given to nail their performance.
"I am proud of our team, their dedication to the program and the months of hard work it took to position us for a run at the title again," Gooch said in a release.
After perfecting the performance for months, each team gets one shot to show its two and a half-minute routine to the judges. Parsons said the road to preparing for a competition such as this takes a lot of dedication.
"It takes a lot of repetition, a lot of trust and a lot of hours in practice perfecting the skills and gaining trust with the team, and just getting close and being able to rely on each other," Parsons said.
The Knights did, however, take home one top honor this year. They placed first in the World University Championships earlier in the competition on Sunday.
Mercedes Lambert, who was on the national competition squad for the past two years, said they were a lot more prepared this year than they were last year, and having a successful warm-up is one key to their confidence.
"This year we had a great warm-up. I don't think anybody on the team was really stressed," she said. "I know I went out on that mat with full confidence. I wasn't worried about a thing."
But the end of competition season doesn't mean the end of work for the Knights. The team trains year-round and begins working on fresh routines for the next wave of UCF sports and competitions as soon as the national competition is over.
The team was back in the weight room on Monday, leaving Sunday's competition behind and looking ahead to placing first next season.
Jazmyne Hankerson is the sports editor for the Central Florida Future. Find her on Twitter @AsToldByJLee or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.