With the word “magical” often used to describe Walt Disney World Resort, it was only fitting for the Northwest cheer and dance squads to experience a magical weekend of their own, with both teams taking home national championships at the UCA/UDA College Nationals.
Competing at nationals for just the second time ever, coach Patrice Christian’s Northwest dance team took home the gold medal in the Open Hip-Hop Finals, marking the program’s first-ever national championship. Meanwhile, coach Brandon Casey fielded two cheer squads for the first time ever, with the all-girl team taking home the gold medal in the open finals.
Both cheer and dance advanced to the finals in every division they competed in throughout the weekend. In the Open Hip-Hop category, Northwest avenged last year’s second-place finish by earning first in both the semifinals and finals. The Rangers topped the semifinals with a raw score of 92.3833 and an event score of 87.9841, beating out 15 other programs.
In the finals, Northwest posted a raw score of 92.65 and an event score of 88.2381, far ahead of runners-up West Chester University (85 score) and Wisconsin-Eau Claire (81.0159 score).
“I am so proud of this team and all of the hard work they put in to earning a national championship,” Christian said. “We started and ended this journey as a family.”
That wasn’t the only top finish for Christian’s dance team, as the Rangers also brought home the bronze in the Open Game Day division. Competing in the semifinals against 15 teams, Northwest earned fifth place with an 84.45 score, before rising to third in the finals with a result of 86.7.
In cheer, Northwest competed in three divisions and took home top finishes in all three. The Rangers’ most notable victory came in the Open All-Girl division, collecting a first place finish in the semifinals with an 87.9 score, before earning a winning 90.8 total in the finals.
Northwest competed against 11 other programs in the Open All-Girl category, including runners-up and fellow MACCC squad Pearl River, which were defending their back-to-back championships.
“This was the first time that we have ever fielded an all-girl team for national competition and that was something I was excited about going into the year,” Casey said. “We really didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know where our routine would land us after the semifinals, but it turned out to be more than enough to top Pearl River.”
In the Open Co-Ed Game Day division, the Rangers rebounded from a fourth place finish in the semifinals (92.7333 score) to earn second place in the final round (84.5 score). Northwest trailed only Division I program Southeastern Louisiana University in the finals, while placing ahead of Division I squad Morehead State, MACCC foe Mississippi Gulf Coast and NCAA Division II program Midwestern State University. In the Small Open Co-Ed category, Northwest went from a fourth place finish in the semifinals (83.8 event score) to earn third place in the final round (86.1 event score). Wilmington University and Iowa Western were the only two teams to fare better than the Rangers in the finals, while Casey’s squad finished ahead of five other programs.
“We didn’t hit our routine and it’s not the outcome we wanted,” Casey said. “(But) we are very proud of all the hard work that our team put in. We are going to regroup and prepare for what we need to do to win that division next year.”
Since beginning competition in the 2020-21 season, Northwest cheer has earned four national titles. The Rangers earned two championships in the Open Co-Ed Game Day and Open Small Co-Ed divisions in 2021, while the Open Small Co-Ed national championship in January 2022.
“We are extremely blessed as a program to have the support from the administration like we do,” Casey concluded. “That is something that is unmatched for sure. Both teams were a challenge for myself and assistant coach Rainy Bordelon to manage, but I would say that we had a successful weekend showing everyone what Northwest is all about.”