Jan. 19, 2009
Story and photos by Donnell FieldORLANDO, Fla. - After winning two national titles there is a thought that maybe one would be complacent or that time would catch up with them. Tennessee's dance team left no doubt and put to rest any thought of complacency in the semi-finals on Saturday night and then proceeded to nail its third straight national crown, in the Jazz Division, in resounding fashion on Sunday night at Walt Disney World's Wide World of Sports.
It was a just one of a few highlights that again solidified Tennessee as one of the top spirit programs in the country.
Coming into the competition Tennessee's cheer squad had to fight its way through the semi-finals to reach the championship night. Having 13 first time competitors and only two returnees, just making the finals was not a given thought. But with great passion and tenacity the young squad performed near flawlessly in the semis to gain a spot in the finals on Sunday.
The finals proved a little tougher as the competition also improved. They took the floor mid-way through the finals and despite a few small bobbles nailed down another top 10 finish, placing eighth among 15 finalist including several national programs who came in ranked above them.
Rounding out the group was good ole Smokey coming off a national championship year in 2008, gave a solid performance but not enough to retain the crown. Smokey finished fifth, marking the 10th straight year Tennessee has placed all three of its competition squads in the top 10.
The dance team also brought home a sixth-place finish in the Hip-Hop Division bringing four top 10 finishes for the Tennessee spirit squads.
But the night belonged to the reigning two-time national champions as they swept through the semi-finals and prepared for the real thing on Sunday. With only one senior, Tennessee's team took the floor mid-way through competition and with a lively crowd cheering them on nailed their routine and left others jockeying for second. Two-time national champion Minnesota and this year's runner up Florida State made for some formidable competition, but it was the smoothness and flawless routine and beautiful choreography which sealed the deal, earning Tennessee its' third straight crown.
It was a fitting ending to another great competition as the gap between the top teams in the country continues to close. They say winning a crown is tougher than defending one, you might have to ask our national champions about that but it is a challenge they are looking forward to 2010.