Taking The Title

As the formation of dancers on the floor explodes into a series of perfectly executed, simultaneous back handsprings, one fact is clear to even the most casual of observers – cheerleading isn’t just girls with pom-poms anymore.

“Cheering, for those who compete nationally, isn’t what it used to be,” says Orson Sykes, owner and founder of the nationally acclaimed training facility, Twist and Shout. “It’s an athletic sport. It’s gymnastics. It’s acrobatics. You have to train all year, and you have to be very strong and very flexible to do it.”

The National Cheer Association (NCA) collegiate competitions bring the best of the country’s cheerleaders together to compete for the national championship every spring.

For the past three years, the title for the intermediate class has been won by Edmond’s own UCO co-ed cheer team, coached by David Owens with a winning routine choreographed by Sykes. This April at the NCA competition in Florida, UCO competed against 6,000 athletes from various Division I and Division II schools across the nation. Between their cheer and dance teams, UCO has won more than double the amount of national championships than any other school in the country.

At the 2009 Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) international competition, UCO’s smaller, elite co-ed squad took second place in its division in a competition involving 450 teams from 40 different countries.

Edmond’s Twist and Shout is ranked 13th among the nation’s premier cheer gyms, according to American Cheerleader magazine. Since its opening, Twist and Shout’s all-star teams have won over 200 titles at various national championships.

Sykes has choreographed the UCO cheer team’s three minute routine for NCA competitions the past three years. The routine is a complicated combination of t