Ole Miss Captures UCA National Championship
Jan. 22, 2018
OXFORD, Miss. – When the Ole Miss cheerleading team returned to Oxford from the UCA College National Championship in Orlando, they didn’t do so alone, bringing home the title in the D1A All Girl Game Day division.
In just its second championship meet and fourth year of existence, the Rebel all girl squad lays claim to being the only champion in history, with the UCA adding the Game Day category in 2018.
“It’s my first year with the program and the first year to ever have this competition, so to have all girl winning is a huge deal,” said head coach Ryan O’Connor. “It had a lot of attention around it because it was the first year so the UCA was blowing up our result.”
In the Game Day format, teams are evaluated on their ability to lead the crowd, proper game day skill incorporation, execution of skills, motion technique and overall routine. In a competition focusing on program traditions, Ole Miss was particularly lauded for its “D-Fins” signs, highlighting the Rebels’ Landshark moniker.
“It was really cool to be in a category where they’re judging our game day traditions and being able to beat teams like Minnesota, where cheerleading began, as well as UNLV which is another great team that always places well,” O’Connor said. “It was really great for the students to be able to take what we do at The Grove and on the sidelines and show off our traditions.”
For junior Talia Siple, the Game Day format provides an opportunity to give the rest of the cheer community a taste of the Ole Miss atmosphere and what makes the school so special.
“I always think of national competitions as a way to show other schools what makes our university so unique,” said Siple. “This is our voice. To win the first-ever Game Day National Championship means so much more than I ever thought it would. It means not only did we recognize what we could do as one family to represent Ole Miss, but we showed others exactly what this school is all about.”
While this year’s meet marked the final college nationals competition for the all girl team’s lone senior, Lindsay Russ, she can take pride in knowing that the future is bright for the program.
“We knew that we could be great competitors in the Game Day competition because the skills are something we do consistently on the field or court,” said Russ. “This first-ever Game Day National Championship sets the tone for the years to come and is truly gratifying to my team. We are improving our game day skills, so that our atmosphere is unparalleled across the country.”
In addition to topping the mountain in the all girl competition, Ole Miss brought home the bronze in the Co-ed Game Day division, narrowly being edged by champion Cincinnati, as well as Minnesota.
“I was very pleased with the co-ed team’s performance,” continued O’Connor. “They faced a lot of adversity in the weeks leading up to the competition replacing four different people on our competition mat. We were hoping that it would all come together at the right time and thankfully it did. We were the first team to ever compete in the new venue at the Wide World of Sports so we’ll always have that with us.”
Following the high of Friday’s results, Ole Miss returned to the Wide World of Sports on Saturday for the second day of competition. Despite a mistake made in the closing seconds of their routine, the Rebel co-ed team garnered seventh in the DIA finals, while the all girl team finished as a semifinalist.
“Co-ed had a great routine in the semis that took us to finals,” said O’Connor. “We did have a mistake in the finals that allowed us to slip to seventh but it’s always great to finish in the top-10. In all girl, our routine was a top-five routine, we just didn’t execute and ended as a semifinalist. I think that will motivate us to do better next year.”
While Saturday’s results may not have been quite what the Rebels were hoping for, the squad was able to leave the Sunshine State with an experience and memories none of them will soon forget.
“Being able to compete at college nationals is a dream for all of us who have participated in competition cheer,” said senior Anna Cate Miller. “The talent, the excitement, and the camaraderie of the athletes brings together the best of the best. Add the magic of Disney and you have a perfect showcase for cheer. For four years I have had the honor and privilege of wearing an Ole Miss uniform and to wear it one more time at UCA college nationals was beyond thrilling.”
For all Ole Miss cheerleading news and information, go to OleMissSports.com and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissCheer, on Facebook at Ole Miss Cheerleading and on Instagram at Instagram.com/olemisscheer. Fans can also follow head coach Ryan O’Connor on Twitter at @RyOconnor17.
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