By Matt Green
DAYTONA BEACH – To go 4-for-4 in any sport is an accomplishment. Four hits in four plate appearances in baseball, four made baskets in four shot attempts on the basketball court, even completing all four of your passes on a touchdown drive in football takes focus and execution.
Now, try winning four national championships in four tries.
That’s exactly what Shorter University’s Cheer Hawks accomplished on Friday afternoon in Daytona Beach, as the Small Coed squad captured the first-ever NAIA national championship in the NAIA Small Coed Division at the 2012 NCA Collegiate Cheerleading National Championships.
The title is the fourth straight for Shorter’s competitive cheerleading program, which competed for the first time as a varsity program in 2009. Since its inception, the program has won a national championship in every trip to the NCA Nationals in Daytona.
Shorter’s All-Girl squad won the program's first three national championships (2009, 2010, and 2011) in the NCA’s All-Girl Intermediate II Division.
Shorter head coach Rachel Magness decided to take the program in a new and more challenging direction in 2012, swapping out the All-Girl program to develop a Small Coed squad. The new team paid immediate dividends, winning the 2012 Mid-South Regional Championship in Kentucky in February to earn its Gold Bid to the NCA National Championships.
At the national championships this go around, Small Coed grabbed a lead after Thursday’s preliminary round and finished the job by scoring 9.103 in Friday’s finals to coast to the national championship. Missouri Valley College finished a distant second with a score of 8.760. The moment was extra special for several members of the unit that had competed on the Large Coed team in 2011, and come up just hundredths of a point shy of a national championship.
Shorter’s Large Coed, which also entered this year’s national championships as the 2012 Mid-South Regional champion, nearly pulled off the double on Friday, but ultimately posted a runner-up finish behind repeat NAIA Large Coed Division national champion Oklahoma City University.
The Large Coed Cheer Hawks, who entered Friday’s finals in second place behind the Stars, performed well and earned a final day score of 9.243, but Oklahoma City pieced together a near flawless performance, taking the national championship with a score of 9.460. Oklahoma City was tagged with a mere 0.50-point deduction in its finals showing.
But Friday was about Shorter’s continued dominance in competitive cheerleading, a feat evidenced in the Cheer Hawks having eight athletes pegged as NAIA All-Americans two months ago in Kentucky.
Mitchell Boles, Jessi Clark, Ariele D'Emidio, Taylor Hern, Kaitlin Hill, Brittney Hodges, Taylor Mahi and Reginald Reid earned All-America status in representing Shorter at the regional championships, and each helped propel his or her respective team back into the title hunt in Daytona.