The Texas Tech Pom and Co-Ed Cheer squads earned first-place wins at the NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida.
On Saturday, when the Texas Tech University men's basketball team enters the court in Minneapolis during the first-ever trip to the Final Four in program history, they'll be cheered on by another group of national champs: members of Texas Tech Spirit Program's Pom and Co-Ed Cheer squads.
The squads competed today (April 5) at the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) & National Dance Alliance (NDA) Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Co-Ed Cheer Squad took first place in the Co-Ed Cheer category, while the Pom Squad finished in first place in the Division IA Pom category and second in the Division IA Dance Jazz category. The Pom Squad also won the choreography award in both categories for each routine.
This is the second national title for Co-Ed Cheer. The squad won the national championship for the first time in school history in 2017, and has finished in the top three for the past decade.
"This team was something special from the very beginning," said head cheer coach Bruce Bills. "I knew they had it skill-wise, but they also had the team dynamic. They love and support each other, and I knew we could overcome anything. Team chemistry matters so much when you're trying to put a team together, and each of these student athletes pushed the others to be better and worked that much harder."
This is the fourth national title and third consecutive year the Pom Squad has returned to Lubbock as national champions. The squad finished first in jazz in 2017 and 2018 and first in pom in 2018, the first year they competed in the pom category.
"It feels really good for these students to be rewarded for all the hard work they put in all season," said Pom Squad Coach Erin Alvarado. "I think it's all been extremely overwhelming, but in a good way."
After the preliminary round of competition on Thursday, Texas Tech entered Friday finals in the lead in co-ed cheer, with a top score of 96.97, and in pom, with 95.69 points. In jazz, pom entered the final day of competition in second place with a score of 96.51, just behind Brigham Young University, which scored 97.71.
At the end of the day of final performances, the co-ed squad finished with a score of 98.15, beating the University of Louisville, which finished with a score of 97.35. Texas Tech took first place in pom with a score of 95.77, 0.63 points ahead of second-place East Caroline University. Brigham Young University took the title in jazz, with a score of 99 to Texas Tech's 97.6.
"I'm so incredibly proud of legacy these coaches are leaving and so honored to work with them every day, and with these student athletes," said Stephanie Rhode, director of the Spirit Program. "They have such a high drive and are so intent on success. The happiness that we are all experiencing together is phenomenal."
Immediately after being named champions, the two squads celebrated with a brief run on the beach and into the ocean before part of the group loaded a bus for a 24-hour ride to Minneapolis. On Saturday, the six seniors on the cheer squad and the six seniors from pom will join the men's basketball team on the court there, with the hope of seeing the Red Raiders advance to the first NCAA Men's National Championship game in school history.
They'll also be waiting on word from three co-ed partner teams still in Daytona, who will compete Saturday for a national title in the 2019 NCA Partner Stunt championship.
Bills said it feels amazing not only to bring the national titles back home to Texas, but also to be a Red Raider during one of the most historic times in Texas Tech history.
"It is very special," Bills said. "We have overcome a lot of difficulties and have just driven ourselves and proven we can do this. Across the board, it's a great time to be a Red Raider, from academics to extracurricular activities to athletics, we are so very honored to help represent Texas Tech University at this level of excellence."