Celebration broke out in Daytona Beach, Florida after the UTD Spirit Team took home national awards in every category they competed in from April 6 to April 8 at the NDA/NCA College Competition.
Bringing home three trophies, a plaque and two new banners, the Spirit Team also won four national titles. Two of the national titles were won for the first time in UTD history, landing first place in both the Team Performance Open National Champions and Spirit Rally Open National Champions; they also earned the Innovative Choreography Award. Meanwhile, the cheerleaders celebrated ranking top three in the Intermediate Small Co-ed DIII. Temoc placed fourth in the national Mascot College Classic at the DTU National Championship, making history as the first time UTD’s mascot placed in the top five.
Spirit coordinator Miguel Hernandez, who is also the head dance coach and mascot coach, said this was his first time earning a first-place title with the Comet Spirit Team. He attributes the team’s success to intense practices, upperclassmen leadership and choreographer Mary Stevenson.
“It was fantastic, and it still feels fake. I’m waiting for someone to come in and take these trophies away from us,” Hernandez said. “I don’t know if we call it a curse, but we were just second for maybe about the past three years. We’ve been getting second place in the same category [against the] same team, and we’re like, we have to beat them.”
For all performances, including Temoc’s solar system adventure, the message of the choreography defined by both teams was the drive to go above and beyond. Hernandez began conceptualizing the idea with his team before he even left the airport at the 2022 competition, later adding some unique Texas representation in the spirit rally, which Stevenson brought to life for the team before the nationals season.
While the Spirit Team didn’t receive their choreography until the middle of the fall semester, they’ve been preparing and training by sticking to a training regimen since summer on top of practices.
“This year was definitely a clean slate. And we’re like, this is what we’re doing. This is how hard we have to work, and every practice we have to remind ourselves this is what we want,” Hernandez. “We just started doing harder routines throughout volleyball season and basketball season just to train our bodies to be in a more competitive state earlier on rather than waiting till we got our dances. So, I think that definitely helped amplify and get the athletes ready for what was to come in January.”
Megan Stewart, an ATEC senior and co-captain of the power dancers, said that competition felt like the epitome of the dancers’ hard work and passion for the sport, and that’s what pushed them to victory. This competition marked Stewart’s second year of being co-captain and her first winning a title.
“We wanted to push each other, and we wanted to do it for the seniors who this was their last year, we wanted to do it for the people who this was their first time stepping on the mat,” Stewart said. “There [were] more people who have previously held National Championship titles competing against us and vying for the same spot. Coming back with both National Championship titles feels incredible. We were just so excited to even be able to go this year.”
Tess Christopher, a neuroscience sophomore and captain of the cheerleaders, competed for the first time as a soaring grace on the cheerleading pyramid. She said she admired the adrenaline rush, saying it was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. Christopher confirmed that the training leading up to the competition was intense, and despite several teammate injuries throughout the season, she said it was rewarding for how much time and effort they put into the season.
“We were laughing the whole time [during some practices] and just enjoying one another and enjoying the sport we all love,” Christopher said. “There’s a lot of teaching going on, [but] then on top of that, we had a lot of injuries, unfortunately. Having to deal [with] and overcome those injuries and learn how to work around them was definitely challenging.”
The Spirit Team is currently resigned for the rest of the year outside some guest appearances across campus and an upcoming clinic for tryouts on April 28.