NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The five Stephen F. Austin State University spirit teams are seven days away from axe-ing the competition at the NCA national championship in Daytona, Florida.
The team has a whole new motivation after their small co-ed team lost the championship title last year by one-thousandth of a point.
For over a decade, SFA spirit teams have proven themselves to be one of the winningest teams at the university.
“Everyone thinks that we are just awesome all the time, but it really takes a lot of work from the athletes,” said SFA Spirit Team Director TJ Maple.
“Jack Attack has shown me how to fight for something,” said Heather Johansen of Jack Attack. “I've really had to work a lot harder to get the tricks and the skills.”
“You get a big leadership opportunity because the girls actually, they look to the guys to motivate them and direct them and keep them on path,” said Ty Williams of the small co-ed squad.
“For 2010, 2011, and 2012, we just got third place for those years, so kind of stuck in a rut,” Maple said.
Then 2014, the SFA spirit team left the competition empty-handed.
“It was the first year since 2003 that we hadn't brought home a championship,” Maple said.
“It's the hardest thing, every year creating a new family and I think this is the best one we've had for me, thus far,” said Amanda Johnston of the pom squad.
“We have worked really well together and we have totally blown everyone's expectations so far,” said Abby McCarty of all-girl cheer.
“Our motto all year has been, ‘no regrets, no apologies'” Maple said.
All five spirit teams are using that motto as motivation heading into the largest national cheer leading competition.
“The atmosphere in Daytona is bigger than any cheer competition I've ever been to or ever seen,” said Clayton Adams of the large co-ed.
“It's completely breathtaking,” Johnston said.
“You can talk about it all you want, but until you go and experience it and compete, I think it's totally different,” McCarty said.
“Everybody knows everybody, so it's just like a big homecoming,” Williams said.
“It's awesome to be a part of something that has such a great reputation and legacy, and I'm really excited that I can hopefully fill the shoes of the people who have come before me,” Johansen said.
East Texas News asked what the students were most looking forward to.
“Winning,” Williams said.
“Every year is a new learning experience,” Adams said. “You learn something else. You get a part of a new family and you just keep experiencing and growing each year.”
“If we just go out there and dance for the love of dance, I think that we're unstoppable,” Johansen said.
“It's not just about hitting a skill or a routine,” Maple said. “It's about doing it and being the best. We want to leave those judges not questioning as to who deserves the crown, at the end.”