National University continued its phenomenal rise to the top in the varsity league.
After claiming the No. 1 spot in all basketball divisions, the NU Bulldogs Pep Squad stunned the traditional favorites with a flawless routine to capture its first championship in the UAAP cheerdance competition yesterday at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs, who crashed into the top three for the first time last season, spoiled University of the Philippines’ bid for a fourth straight crown with a perfectly executed Arabian-themed number that garnered 696.5 points.
“We don’t want to be left behind,” NU coach Ghicka Bernabe said after the Bulldogs emerged as the first school to cop the title outside of the cheerdance triumvirate of UP, Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas.
“Our team wanted to show that we can keep up with everyone because all our sports teams are improving. There was pressure. But it’s that pressure that motivated us.”
The surprise feat came just days after NU topped the basketball divisions in the men (10-4 record), women (12-2) and juniors (14-0) at the end of the eliminations, proving once again that the Bulldogs have shaken off the tag of league doormat.
Garbed in glitzy gold and blue costumes, the Bulldogs wowed the massive boisterous crowd of over 20,000 with their stunts, tosses, pyramids and dance number.
“We were very successful with our concept,” said Bernabe after her Bulldogs bagged the P340,000 cash prize. “We wanted our performance to be fast-paced, where no one will blink. We wanted it to be very precise, unique and strong.”
The UP Pep Squad, which had hoped to clinch a record nine overall titles in the league’s annual blockbuster event, settled for a runner-up finish with 620.50 points and a P200,000 prize.
Flashing a pumped-up party routine, the Maroons performed difficult stunts but stumbled in some parts of their number, which merited an 18-point deduction compared to NU’s one-point penalty.
La Salle showcased a solid military-themed routine to garner 596.5 points and a P140,000 prize as one of its dancers, Anna de Leon, also received the Samsung Stunner special award.
The Bulldogs, whose boys sported shaved heads and the girls tightly braided ’dos, swept the competition by also ruling the Group Stunt. FEU finished second followed by UST.
“Everyone just trusted each other,” said NU team captain Adrian Alban.
The FEU Cheering Squad, runner-up last season, slipped to fourth with 589.5 points, followed by Adamson (559.5) and University of the East (559).
UST’s Salinggawi Dance Troupe, tied with UP for the most number of crowns at eight, absorbed their worst finish at seventh (546), while Ateneo wound up last (514).
NU pulled off the convincing win after earning the highest score in every category: tumbling (85 points), stunts (74), tosses (90), pyramids (88.5) and dance (360).
“We wanted it to be authentic, something fresh in the audience’s eyes,” said Bernabe. “We came out with a strong fighting spirit. This team is very united. No one hesitated to do whatever we wanted them to do. We really maximized our time for training,”
The event drew a crowd of 20,830, the biggest crowd the arena has drawn since it opened last year.