DAYTONA BEACH -- The NCA national championship trophy is getting quite comfortable in the winning grasp of the Shorter University Cheer Hawks.
Shorter continued to make history by taking home a third consecutive national championship in the All-Girl Intermediate II Divison at the NCA National Cheerleading Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The national championship trophy will once again call Rome, Ga., home as the Cheer Hawks, who sat in second place after Thursday's preliminary round, turned in a near flawless performance to score an 8.552 in Friday's final round to outduel runner-up Newberry College and complete an unprecedented three-peat.
"It has been a challenge over the last three years to develop the talent to win a title given that we only have four girls on the team that have been a part of every national championship," said Shorter head coach Rachel Magness. "Everyone has worked hard to improve every year and every year, the athletes have stepped up their skill level and dedication to reach their goal of a national championship.
"We were especially challenged this year because we were second coming out of the prelims, but it only motivated our girls more to go out and perform," Magness added. "We deserved to win today."
Newberry, which entered Friday's final as the top qualifier in the All-Girl Intermediate II Division, matched Shorter with one 0.050 deduction, but Shorter's routine difficulty proved the difference -- the Cheer Hawks started with a raw score of 8.602, the most challenging routine in the entire division, while Newberry's routine warranted an 8.402 raw score.
Shorter's final total marked the highest score the team has posted at a national championship since it starting competing at the NCA Nationals.
This latest national championship runs Shorter's team national championship total to four -- the cheerleading program now has three team national crowns while Shorter's men's indoor track team captured the school's first and only NAIA national championship in March.
While the All-Girl squad made the biggest splash, Shorter's Coed group nearly made it two national titles in 2011 for Shorter Cheerleading, finishing just short of a crown in the NAIA Large Coed Division -- the first time in the history of the event that there was an NAIA specific national championship on the line.
The Coed squad, which finished as a runner-up in 2009 and in fourth place last year as a competitor in Cheer Division II, placed second behind NAIA champion Oklahoma City University by the slimmest of margins -- four-hundredths of a point.
Oklahoma City and Shorter were clearly the class of the division as the only two teams to score above a 9.0, but the Stars posted a 9.685 to Shorter's 9.644 to win the title. A safety deduction of 0.050 charged to the Cheer Hawks proved to be the difference.
Like the All-Girl squad, the Coed group's Friday score was the highest in program history.
"It was heartbreaking to know that we came so close to another national championship, but I was especially pleased with our athletes and how they showed nothing but class afterwards," said Magness. "They are so motivated to come back next year and win the whole thing. They are already talking about getting back to practice and doing whatever it takes to get back here and win.
"I was proud of how they performed and also how they responded."
Shorter's performances in both divisions only solidified the Cheer Hawks' place as one of the nation's best programs.
According to Magness, the future of Shorter Competitive Cheerleading appears as bright as ever.
"We have a great coaching staff, an administration and athletic department that supports us 100 percent and because of that, looking forward, I feel like the sky is the limit in terms of what we can accomplish," the coach said. "In three short years we have done an exceptional job and it will only get better from here on out.
"With our determination and motivation to come back stronger next year, we look for the future to be bright."