By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky will be aiming for its 20th national championship at the UCA National College Cheerleading Championship Jan. 18-20 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Kentucky has won the title four of the last five years, including 2012 when Juliet McCreary was a freshman. Now the 19-year-old sophomore from Huntersville, N.C. is hoping to be part of a second straight national championship and shares her insights on the upcoming championship.
Question: How do you feel about UK’s chances to win the national championship again?
McCreary: “I feel confident in our chances to win the national championship! I think with the right mindset and our ability to be prepare, we will be victorious. The most important thing is confidence in the routine and trusting that your teammates know what to do. With that being said the routine will speak for itself!”
Question: What has the team been concentrating on the most to get ready for the competition?
McCreary: “We have had 2 a day practices everyday over break. Cheerleading is a bit different from other sports. We don’t run “plays” and don’t get second chances or a halftime break to redeem ourselves if our team is lagging. We compete 1 routine that is judged on how well our stunts, tumbling, cheer, and pyramids are. We practice the same routine over and over until its perfect with no mistakes and try to perfect each skill in order to get the maximum score. I know it might sound boring but we literally run the same routine and become nit picky over video on what to make better. The goal is to hit the routine perfect with no mistakes every time we run the routine. I do have to add that Its easier said then done.”
Question: Is the trip/competition fun for you or is there so much pressure that you can’t enjoy the experience?
McCreary: “The trip is extremely fun! It is located in Orlando Florida so it cant get much better than that. We have a practice day at the wide world of sports to show off our stunts and meet other teams. The following 2 competition days is where our focus needs to be 100 percent but at this point we are prepared as we will ever be. There is pressure to do well but its positive pressure that helps us perform. Its not bad to have a little bit of pressure but I can’t imagine a trip with Kentucky Cheerleading that will ever “too much” pressure that I couldn’t enjoy the experience. Thats not what our program is about.”
Question: What kind of parent/family/fan support does Kentucky normally receive at this event?
McCreary: “ Last year was my first year at this event but from what I’ve seen, the support is great. Parents and families almost always are there because it is the one and only competition to see their child perform if they are able to go. The attendance is pretty high because of how huge the venue is and what teams compete. I know my parents are coming and using half of the trip as their vacation. Mom says she needs a tan anyways. It’s a nice trip for everyone.”
Question: Finally, how does the competition works to those who may not know?
McCreary: “The UCA college nationals is one of the most prestigious national championships for college cheerleading in the country. We are down in Florida for five days. The first day is a practice day. Next are the semifinals on saturday, and we compete to make it to the next day. Unfortunately not every team makes it to Sunday. Once we get to Sunday, we warm up outside on the grass around other teams. Next we go to an actual warm-up room which leads us right to the competition floor after that. Once that is done, we wait for awards.
“Note that we are not the only division in this competition which gets confusing. Our division is D1 A. There is also a D2 division and a few others. This just is based on the schools (like football in a way). The dance team also competes in this competition along with other divisions and other dance teams as well as mascots! It is filled with college athletes working towards a national championship.”