Aztecs take first-place honors at Nationals

by Agustin Gonzalez

Courtesy of SDSU’s Cheerleading and Dance Team
Courtesy of SDSU’s Cheerleading and Dance Team

While the San Diego State men’s basketball team is currently chasing a national title, two SDSU teams have already won one.

SDSU’s cheerleading squad and dance team both finished first in their respective competitions at the 2011 United Spirit Association Collegiate Cheerleading and Dance Championships at the Anaheim Convention Center last weekend.

“The energy in the room after we competed was absolutely crazy,” Nicole Tamayoshi, a senior on the cheerleading squad, said. “Once we stuck our routine, the whole arena was going nuts and it felt so good to be walking around. And afterward people were just saying, ‘Wow you guys were amazing.’ There’s no better feeling than to know that we did the best we could do.”

“Honestly, it was like a dream,” senior dance co-captain Stacy Johnson added. “It was just unreal … people were crying — it was just amazing.”

The cheerleading squad is no stranger to success at Nationals. SDSU won it all in 2009 and finished third last year.

But it almost didn’t happen this time around. According to Tamayoshi, the girls had to overcome a rocky start on the first day of competition.

“We actually had a rough performance on Saturday,” she said. “We were a little flustered and we knew that we really had to get it together on Sunday. We all really came together as a team and it was our last performance of the year, so what we wanted to do was prove to ourselves that we could do it and stick a perfect routine. When we got off the mat we wanted to have tears of joy, and that’s exactly what we did.”

The dance team, which finished fifth at Nationals for the past three years, finally broke the curse.

The team had a fantastic show at the preliminary round and went into the finals on Sunday in first place in both the jazz and hip-hop events. Dancing to Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” the team beat Long Beach State (second place) and CSU Fullerton (third), which coach Carrie Smith called its “fiercest competitors” in jazz.

The team followed that with another first-place show in hip-hop (Long Beach State and Arizona earned second and third, respectively).

“When we won, it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?’” Smith said. “We went into finals in first place in both routines and we just really weren’t expecting that because our competition is fierce. They have really amazing dancers.”

“No one was expecting us to win,” Johnson added. “No one considered us a threat … We thought once we had won hip-hop, we definitely hadn’t won jazz. We thought for sure we would be second or something.”

Smith believed the victories by the dance team and cheer squad gave the entire country an opportunity to see how talented the two SDSU teams really are.

“For me personally, this was big,” Smith said. “This was huge. This gives San Diego State a lot of credibility at the national level.”