Clean Sweep

cards spirit squads make history at prestigious national championship

The U of L co-ed and all-girl cheer squads and the Ladybirds Dance Team swept all three categories at the National Cheerleaders Association/National Dancers Alliance (NCA/NDA) National Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The sweep was a first in history for the competition.

"People just don't realize the scope of this win," says Todd Sharp, U of L spirit coordinator. "There were 192 universities and we swept. The kids were amazing."

It was important for the three Cardinal squads to start strong, and they did. After the preliminary rounds of the competition, the all-girl team ranked first in its bracket, the Ladybirds ranked second and the co-ed group ranked third.

"That was very good news, because being anywhere in the top five means you have a realistic shot at the title," Sharp says. "But with such stiff competition, you never know how things will go in the finals."

But the squads had saved their best for last, each performing flawlessly in the final round, Sharp says. "Every move hit perfectly."

The Cardinals' co-ed cheerleading team--coached by James Speed--beat out second-place North Carolina State and third-place University of Oklahoma. The all-girl team, which is coached by Misty Sharp, edged out the University of Memphis and third-place Florida State University. The Ladybirds, coached by Sheryl Knight and Todd Sharp, finished ahead of second-place Brigham Young University and third-place University of Southern California.

U of L has traditionally fared well at the NCA/NDA National Championship. The co-ed squad now has nine national championships over the years while the all-girl squad and Ladybirds have four titles each.

Last year both the Ladybirds and the all-girl squad took first place. That was the closest any university had come to a sweep. So the other universities were looking at the Cardinals as the team to beat, Sharp says.

"In the past, it was as if they were out to bring down the leaders and that nobody at the competition was pulling for us," he says. "But this year everything was different. It was almost as if the participants sensed that they were seeing something extraordinary.

"The other universities really cheered us on. Getting that kind of support and respect from your peers means a lot. It made our victories that much sweeter."

The U of L squads also were buoyed by a strong contingent of U of L supporters. "We had more than 200 fans made up of family, alumni and current students to cheer us on," Sharp says.

Throughout the year, each team practices three or four times a week. When preparing for competition, they crank it up a few notches--five, six, sometimes even seven times a week in sessions lasting three hours.

Their hard work paid off, Sharp says.

"We always knew we had amazing spirit squads here but this is beyond our dreams."


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