There was only one way for the Blinn College dance team to one-up its 2023 national championship, and it made for a crowded flight home to Texas.

The Buccaneers repeated as Junior College Pom Division champions last week at the National Dance Alliance and National Cheer Alliance College Nationals in Dayton, Fla., but turned one over-sized trophy into two with a follow-up victory in the Junior College Team Dance Division.

It was the first double championship for Blinn since winning the same division titles in 2019. The championships also marked the Bucs’ first back-to-back nationals wins since a string of six titles between 2014-2019.

Under the direction of Sarah Barland-Flisowski, the Bucs have won a combined 17 cheer and dance national championships since 2014.

“It’s always amazing to see your hard work pay off,” Barland-Flisowski said. “We started learning our dance routines in October, so we’ve been doing these dances for a long time. There is a lot of work that goes into all of this that the kids dedicate themselves to every day. It’s not just what you see at halftime of basketball games during the season. They work their butts off daily in hopes to achieve what we did in Daytona.”

Blinn’s Pom Division routine was choreographed by Stephen F. Austin Spirit Coordinator and Head Dance Coach T.J. Maple, while its team dance routine was co-constructed by Maple and 2014 Blinn dance alumnus Katie McAninch.

With a final event score of 92.7714, the Bucs bested Iowa Central Community College, Connor State College, and Hawkeye Community College for the Pom title. Iowa Central finished second with a 90.4571.

“We were going up against some teams we were familiar with and some teams we never faced, but we still went into the dances with the determination that we were going to double title,” said sophomore dancer Taylor Bearden, who was a member of the 2023 championship team. “We said it every day, ‘We believe we can double title,’ and that’s the mindset we took to Daytona. We let all of our hard work speak for itself and left everything on the stage, and it was just the best feeling ever walking off the stage knowing we performed as well as we did.”

Blinn’s Pom victory was especially rewarding after its preliminary performance in front of judges led to changes in its choreography. The Bucs spent the night before its championship performance in the hallways of their hotel reworking turn combinations in their dance.

“The judges told us they didn’t like it, so we changed it,” Barland-Flisowski said. “So, our girls had to change this entire part of their brain that had been memorizing that part of the dance since October in less than 24 hours. It was stressful, but everything we threw at them all year long, they were able to do and I’m so proud of them for that.”

In a three-team skirmish for the Team Dance title, Blinn finished with a score of 89.1250 to outlast runner-up Riverside City College (87.3000). Barton Community College finished third in the competition.

The Bucs’ dance routine included jazz, hip hop, and pom styles.

Shortly before taking the stage for its final dance, Blinn learned of its Pom Division victory and used the good news as motivation for their next mission.

“That lit a fire under everybody to push and really go for what we set out to achieve,” freshman Emma Chamberlain said. “We were able to put the worries about Pom to rest and lock in on the Team Dance title, and I think that allowed everyone to dance with a bit of freedom.”

Competing for the Bucs were Bearden, Chamberlain, sophomores Celia StoneAshleigh GreenwoodJadaya SimienKalee SheltonKristal OrtegaRaven GuidryDevinne Oregon, and London BennettCamila Corredor, and freshmen Aimee AlmarazKamorah BowenEdgar GuajardoJaedlynn NavaAngelica JaimesCaitlyn Nace, Noee Newton, Aniya GuytonLillian PereiraMadison Swain, and Kylie Wiggins

Alongside the dance squad, Blinn’s cheerleading team led by coach Amanda Logback also competed in the national competition.

The Bucs battled four teams in the Advanced Small Coed Junior College Division and placed third. Dodge City Community College earned the title with a score of 93.3125, while Trinity Valley Community College and Blinn placed second and third with scores of 93.2042 and 91.9375, respectively.

“We had a really great opening day, but during our final performance we had some bobbles that we couldn’t overcome,” Barland-Flisowski said. “Our kids have worked really, really hard and we couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. They overcame a lot of adversity with schedule changes due to weather and other difficulties, but they embraced those challenges with grace and we couldn’t have asked for a better group to represent us at nationals.”

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 47 NJCAA national championships since 1987.

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