Manila, Philippines – University of the Philippines turned from blondes to baldies but maintained an excellent choreography to capture its third consecutive Samsung UAAP Cheerdance Competition crown yesterday at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena.
The cheerers from Diliman, who shaved their heads regardless of gender, wowed the crowd of 19,509 with their efficient and crisp routine and a theme that carries the message of freedom to take the top purse of P340,000.
“We just want to let everyone feel free and free to express themselves through our performance,“ said co-captain Irish Planes, whose team went to the more meaningful theme after sporting blonde hairs and animelike costumes last year.
Not even a last-second fall at the end of its performance could prevent the five judges from giving the group dubbed as the UP Pep Squad its eighth championship, tying the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe for most number of titles in history.
It was a clean sweep for UP as it also came out victorious in two side events the Group Stunts competition and in the Samsung Stunner award where its member Nicolette Erika Ambulo beat out Maja Reyes of La Salle and Akua Henabu-Labri of UST through fan voting.
The FEU Cheering Squad took home second spot and R200,000 with their jungle theme and gymnastics-inspired routine. It is the 10th straight year for the Morayta-based squad in the top three.
But the surprise finisher went to host National University, which leaned on an improved performance and a Disney-inspired theme to grab third place honors and P140,000.
It was indeed a fairy tale run for the NU Pep Squad after years of languishing in the cellar posted their best-ever finish since the event was launched in 1998.
The event also extended the downward spiral of UST in cheerdance. The once-mighty dancers from Espana, whose last title was in 2006, failed to make it to the top three for the third time in the last four years by finishing fourth.
The DLSU Animo Squad, who last year stunned everyone with a second place finish, settled for fifth. Rounding out the order of finish are Ateneo, Adamson and University of the East.
Composing the group of judges are international cheerdance officials and coaches Jana Eftimiu Omani, Juloine Leblond, Huang Yu Chun, Manuel Malonzo and Joe Jackson. (Jonas Terrado)
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