This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of MemphiSport.
Winning national championships is something that every person involved with sports dreams about from an early age. For the University of Memphis pom squad, those dreams have become a reality – for two straight years.
This year, the Memphis pom squad captured the 14th national championship in the team’s storied history. The Tigers beat out LSU and Cincinnati, which finished second and third respectively, for the Hip Hop National Championship. Memphis edged the same two programs for the 2011 National Hip Hop Championship and has now won Hip Hop National Championships in 2007 and 2008.
“Being back-to-back National Champs is an amazing feeling,” U of M junior pom member Lauren Byrd said. “This year we were actually very close to a double championship – Minnesota beat us by only a slim margin in the pom category – but one championship is good enough for me!”
The team’s recognition didn’t stop with their strong showing at Nationals. After winning the national championship, the team applied through the International Cheer Union to be considered to be Team USA for the ICU World competition, which is held April 28-29 at the Disney Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.
Memphis was selected to represent Team USA in the Hip Hop portion of the ICU championships, and Pace Elite (California) will compete for Team USA in the jazz and pom categories. The competition involves teams from across the world, including squads from China, Japan, Germany Colombia, Mexico, Norway and others.
“It feels beyond honorable to have been chosen to represent the USA out of the whole country,” said co-captain and senior Jamie Kelley. “Also, it’s very exciting to get to do this as I end my career on the pom squad.”
In preparation for nationals each year, the U of M pom squad has to put in as much hard work—if not more—than other athletes at Memphis to get ready for the UDA National College Dance Team Championships. During the fall, the team sends in a tape of a routine that has been perfected through practice and is as close to perfect as possible. Once that part of the preliminary competition is done, the team gets placements, whether it is a partial/full paid bid, and an invitation to the UDA National Championships in January.
Memphis’ hard work in the preliminary stages and then at the UDA National Championships paid off, and the team couldn’t be more excited to represent the University of Memphis on a worldwide stage.
“Being a part of Team USA is such an amazing opportunity that I’m so blessed we got the chance to do,” junior Caitlin Fenton said. “Not many people can say that they represented their country doing something they love, so I feel so honored that Memphis pom got picked for team USA, and I know everyone on the team does too.”
Photos by John Fenton and Lindsay Byrd