Spirit teams place high at nationals

The GW dance and cheerleading squads took home top 10 finishes last week at the Chick-Fil-A College Cheer & Dance Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla. The cheerleading team finished in fifth place in the final round while the dance squad took ninth.

The cheerleading and dance teams are known by students for their performances at basketball games and spirit events such as Midnight Madness. What students may not know is that the teams practice on a regular basis and compete against other schools.

“We’re not just together to perform at basketball games,” sophomore dance team member Sarah Puritz said. “We’re a dedicated team ready to compete.”

The dance team competed against 21 teams in the Division I category and moved up from its original 10th place ranking to ninth place out of 11 teams in the final round with a score of 8.64. The fourth-seeded cheerleading squad competed against 11 other schools, finishing fifth out of the final six with an 8.48. Rankings going into the final rounds were determined by the teams’ performances in preliminary rounds.

The week marked the first time either team moved past preliminaries, an accomplishment freshman dance team member Becca Wexler said was a major goal for both teams. Last year the dance team finished 14th and the cheerleaders finished 11th.

“Not only did we achieve all of our goals for the season, but we also had a great time doing it,” she said. “We knew that our performance in prelims was not the best we possibly could have done, so when we went into finals we knew that we had nothing to lose. This was our last shot to not only perform together but to really make all the time and energy we spent practicing worth it.”

The championship is the world’s largest collegiate cheerleading competition and attracted 194 teams including more than 6,000 cheerleaders, dancers, mascots and spectators.

Towson won the dance competition this year for the second year in a row with a score of 9.71, followed by the University of Charlotte (9.56) and Long Beach State University (9.56). In the cheerleading competition, Stephen F. Austin University finished first with a 9.49, followed by Northeastern University (9.30) in second place and Charlotte in third.

Teams qualified for the invite-only competition by sending in videos of their routines. The championship, which will be televised in late April on Fox SportsNet, was the last competition this year for the GW spirit teams.

“We were all smiles when we walked onto that stage,” Wexler said. “There were definitely nerves, but more than anything else we really just wanted to finish with no regrets, and we definitely did.”

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