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Vaughtâ€™s note: Andrea Allinder Kirkpatrick is a Kentucky native and former UKâ€ˆcheerleader now living in Florida who remains a die-hard Big Blue fan. Here are her thoughts on the Kentucky cheerleaders recently winning their 19th national championship.
By Andrea Allinder Kirkpatrick
19 â€¦ is not just a number to the University of Kentucky Cheerleaders. It is the unprecedented number of times the UK squad has won UCAâ€™s National College Cheerleading Championship. In 1985, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008,2009,2010, and now in 2012 the UK Cheerleaders have brought the trophy home to the University of Kentucky.Â Seems amazing on any note but to put it into perspective they have won 19 out of 28 UCA national championships.
The hard work and determination that goes into winning these national championships for UK cannot and should not go unnoticed. The commitment of training and conditioning that goes into winning is like no other. Oh to spend a week in the shoes of a UK cheerleader would make you quite exhausted!
First and foremost, these are individuals that are student athletes gaining a priceless education at UK.Â These athletes strive to receive and maintain scholarships, which are awarded to select squad members. The cheerleaders are responsible for not only being ambassadors for the university but also have numerous obligations they must uphold. Responsibilities include cheering all home football and basketball games, most away games, along with going to all tournament play. They also cheer volleyball games. Along with these obligations you have to incorporate going to class, studying, mandatory study hall, weight training three times a week, and practice. How do they ever find the time or the energy? Not to mention this is all done with impeccable focus, dedication, hard work, and a positive attitude.
High expectations, and a no fear attitude is instilled in the program by UKâ€™s veteran coach of 10 years Jomo Thompson and the UK cheer advisor of 34 years TLynn Williamson as well. Jomo reiterated that as a coach it is his responsibility to instill more than winning championships in these athletes. It is also very important to him and the program to produce successful people. The University of Kentucky Cheerleading program helps these individuals become who they want to be outside of cheerleading.
If I learned anything from my short time cheering there I learned that if you want to be a part of something great you must make great sacrifice. Being the best you can be not only when you are in the spotlight but also when people arenâ€™t looking. It was instilled that â€œpracticeâ€ doesnâ€™t make perfect, â€œperfect practiceâ€ makes perfect. A day-to-day philosophy that these athletes are expected to follow. â€œThe best teams know they can get better, set the bar and out do themselves.â€ Jomo couldnâ€™t have said it any better.
Recently a letter was sent to the UK Cheer Alumni as a thank-you for their support through the years. Jomo wrote with much pride in his squad, â€It is an honor to make you proud by winning championships, cheering on UKâ€™s sports teams and most importantly, producing responsible, nice, and capable young adults.â€
He believes in maintaining the great legacy and tradition that is UK Cheerleading. â€œThis tradition has been forged and created by all who have had the privilege to be a part of the program.â€ So you see tradition runs deep at the University of Kentucky in regards to being the best and winning championships. However, I am most proud of having been a part of something so wonderful others will never understandâ€¦The University of Kentucky as a learning institution and the tradition it represents.
When you go to a game and are a part of Rupp Arenaâ€™s exciting and always-legendary atmosphere you now know the UK Cheerleaders are working hard getting it to that level that separates Big Blue Nationâ€™s crowd involvement from the rest. When you get that butterfly feeling in your stomach while you see them perform the Wildcat Pyramid at Rupp with the UK flag in the background, know the tradition of winning championships is in their blue blood as well.
As Jomo tweeted after the winning of the 19th championship: â€œKentucky has climbed the mountain once again and we stand alone Championship number 19 is coming home.â€ Big Blue Nationâ€™s old Kentucky home, my old Kentucky home far, far, away.