OSU Cheer wins back-to-back national championships
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
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Hunter Batkins knew the Oklahoma State University Cheer Squad could withstand the pressure.
After more than two years of a pandemic and a full season of having a target on its back as the defending national champion, OSU was used to high stakes. When the time came to perform once again for the National Cheerleaders Association Championship, OSU was flawless.
On April 8, the Cowboys and Cowgirls came away with the national title for the second-straight year and for their fifth in the last decade. It’s OSU’s 18th national championship as a program.
“Throughout the year, we were nervous and uneasy because we had a brand new group and lost a lot of our seniors, but at the same time, just throughout the year, everyone was making so many improvements that there were no questions,” said Batkins, OSU’s senior male captain. “We just knew that when the time came, we would ace the routine and defend our title like we should have.”
OSU finished ahead of fellow college powers Louisville and Texas Tech in the Large Coed Division and came in runner-up in the All-girl Division behind Louisville.
For Batkins, who saw his sophomore campaign cut short in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, said it was great to see his class finish off their careers with back-to-back titles.
“It makes me so excited and so happy that I chose this program,” said Batkins, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, who will be graduating in May with a degree in sports and coaching science. “Growing up, I played football, basketball and baseball and really achieved my goals in that. When I did start cheering, I was achieving my goals but still wasn't at the winning caliber. Being at a program where the talent is so great and the family aspect is so amazing, plus being able to win two national titles is something that I will never be able to forget.”
The NCA Nationals take place every year in Daytona Beach, Florida, and judges teams based on five skill-based categories: stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, standing tumbling and running tumbling.
OSU coach Lindsay Bracken, who now has six NCA national titles to her name in Stillwater, said the competition is so tight that most of the time, it comes down to just who is better on that certain day.
“Our top competitors are going to be doing the same thing,” Bracken said. “The key is to put together a routine that is entertaining and also very clean. There are no major mistakes, everything you are doing is performed with good technique. Cheerleading is sometimes about who has the best day on the day that it matters. My athletes had focused in on the small stuff enough that when the day came, we felt confident that we could do it again.”
Bracken said it seemed like this year the squad was able to celebrate just a bit more with the COVID restrictions starting to lessen. Plus, she didn’t have to constantly worry about an outbreak shutting down OSU’s season early.
“Last year, I felt like there was always that fear that it would happen again, whereas this year, that fear was gone, which was a big deal,” Bracken said. “You aren’t battling a mindset that this might not matter.”
Bracken thanked the large OSU alumni group for helping ensure her team felt supported during its run at nationals. She said that part of what makes the program special is the support, which in turn plays a role in keeping the orange dynasty going.
“Oklahoma State has a reputation for good cheerleading and people come to Oklahoma State to pursue their degree because they also want to cheer at a very competitive program,” Bracken said.
This year's squad consists of the following members: Camden Baird, Ory Baker, Batkins, Ryan Bradford, Ashlyn Calhoun, Daric Coffee, Caivon Crosby, Aya Dajani, Parker Darnell, Tucker Darnell, Lauren Duffy, Gannon Dyess, Axel Fox, Timothy Gordon, Maggie Grappe, Camille Hecht, Drew Herter, Brandon James, Lane Leach, Makaila Mann, Aiden McCauley, Laynie Morgan, Lacie Newnam, Kosta Paperis, Madison Ramming, Allison Ramsey, Logan Rhea, Abby Ross, Baylee Schroeder, Kara Skelton, Sammie Smith, Meredith Strickland and Stephen Young.
Adrik Taylor serves as the volunteer assistant coach to Bracken. For more information on OSU cheer, go to https://okstate.com/sports/spirit.