By Washington State Athletics

Washington State University’s cheer squad placed sixth and the Crimson Girls finished eighth in the finals, both best finishes in school history, at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and Universal Dancers Association (UDA) College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships, respectively, Sunday, Jan. 14, at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Orlando, Fla.

“The word of the weekend was heart,” spirit coordinator and head cheer coach, Chris Opheim said. “Kaila (Wallace, Crimson Girls coach) and I are still in disbelief and couldn’t be any prouder of these young men and women and the things they have accomplished.”

Cheer’s sixth place finish in the Division IA Coed category marks its highest finish in school history after placing 12th in 2016, 11th in 2015 and 12th in 2014, its debut year. Kentucky won its 23rd national championship and third-straight. UCF (second), Ohio State (third), Alabama (fourth) and Hawaii (fifth) rounded out the top five. WSU in sixth finished head of Mississippi (seventh), USF (eighth), Western Kentucky (ninth), Oklahoma (10th), Minnesota (11th), LSU (12th), Cincinnati (13th) and Michigan State (14th), all of whom advanced to the finals.

“This has been the best group of kids I’ve coached here at WSU,” Opheim said. “This is why heart and effort matter so much. One of our ending pyramids had a bobble and it could have fallen down, but they kept it up. That was the difference between sixth and 14th.”

The Crimson Girls’ eighth place finish marks their highest in school history in the Division IA Jazz category, as this year marked the first time they advanced to the finals in back-to-back seasons. Last season the Crimson Girls came in 12th.  Last year’s runner-up, Ohio State, won the 2018 championship, while last year’s champion, Minnesota, was second. Florida State (third), Michigan (fourth), Arizona State (fifth), Penn State (sixth) and Tennessee (seventh) rounded out the top-seven. WSU finished one place ahead of perennial powerhouse, LSU in ninth, Wisconsin in 10th, San Diego State (11th) and Rutgers (12th).

“The Crimson Girls really executed their emotionally-charged routine,” Wallace said. “We had people say the routine was emotionally eye-catching and that they couldn’t watch it without feeling every emotion. That was our goal, to bring emotion to the spectators.”