Kentucky cheerleading finishes in top 10 at national competition

·2 min read
Alex Slitz/aslitz@herald-leader.com

The wait for a 25th national championship will have to go on for the Kentucky cheerleading program.

After consecutive third-place finishes in the last two years at the Universal Cheerleaders Association college nationals, Kentucky finished this year’s competition in eighth place in Division 1A.

The competition took place this past weekend at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

UK was in second place entering Sunday’s finals before ultimately finishing eighth.

The result means that Kentucky remains on 24 national championships in program history, with the most recent national title coming in 2019, which was UK’s fourth in a row.

This was the second appearance for UK at the UCA college nationals under head coach Ryan Martin O’Connor, a Lexington native who cheered for UK and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

O’Connor took over the UK program in 2020 after longtime coach Jomo Thompson was fired following a school investigation into the cheer team’s conduct.

At last year’s competition, O’Connor oversaw her first title with the program as Kentucky won the 2021 Division IA Game Day Cheer national championship, a competition that UK competed in virtually. That title was the first such championship in school history.

This weekend while competing in person, Kentucky finished fifth in the game-day competition.

“While I am obviously disappointed with the results, I know how hard this squad has worked to get to this point,” O’Connor said in a UK news release. “We will take what we learned this year and use that to reload and refocus for next year.”

UK dance team finishes fifth

In addition to Kentucky cheerleading, the UK dance team also competed at this weekend’s national championships in Orlando.

After a second-place finish in both the game-day division and the hip-hop portion of the competition last year — which were the best finishes in program history — UK slipped a bit in the standings this year.

UK finished fifth in the hip-hop competition and 12th in the game-day division.

EKU, Morehead State win titles

Both Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State earned national titles at the same competition this weekend.

EKU repeated as national champions in Small Coed Division I, while the EKU All-Girl team finished second in the All-Girl Division I competition, coming up just short of also repeating as national champions.

Morehead State’s Coed team won the program’s 28th Division I national championship, while the all-girl partner stunt team of Frankie Capilets, Sydney Sturgill, Haley Whitacre and Paige Ernst also earned a national title.

The Morehead State cheer program has now won 50 national championships since 1988.