Nationals Sendoff a Success

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of fans filled the Horejsi Family Athletic Center to root on some of their own, the University of Kansas Rock Chalk Dance team and cheer squad. The two teams each revealed a brand-new routine to family and friends, which they will take to the Universal Dance Association and Universal Cheer Association College Dance (UCA/UDA) and Cheer Team Nationals later this week.

Spirit Squad Coordinator Cat Jarzemkoski opened the day’s special event by welcoming those in attendance and introducing all of the coaches who have been working hard with their respective teams for quite some time on the Nationals routines, but extensively so for the past two weeks.

Partner stunt couple, Taia Johnson and Nick Lutz, were first up on the mat for their routine. The duo was accepted by the UCA as one of the 13 partner stunt couples to compete at Nationals. Johnson and Lutz placed sixth in the video entry portion of the event, going up against other couples from across the country (those official results can be found at the UCA/UDA website). The partner stunt competition will be shown on the evening of Friday, Jan. 16, free of charge.

Wearing elegant off-white ensembles covered in sparkling rhinestones, the Rock Chalk Dance team took center stage next. Fourteen of the squad’s 20 members will take part in the jazz routine to be performed at the national competition, to a special song selection all KU fans will be excited about once revealed during the team’s performance this weekend. Rock Chalk Dance head coach Raquel Thomas explained to the crowd that the team has been working tirelessly since the beginning of January.

“We started Jan. 2, officially, to focus just on Nationals routines,” Thomas said. “The girls have been practicing about five to six hours a day the last nine days. The girls have done a great job.”

Following the dance performance, the cheer squad rolled out the mats once again and 16 of the team’s 30 total members set to perform their own routine, which they have been working on since Winter break. “The focus (in the next five days) will be on cleaning up everything we’ve been doing, making sure the skills that we are doing are representative of our team and what it can do,” assistant coach Nami Stone said.

Both Thomas and Stone have set goals and expectations for their teams at Nationals, which they believe can be achieved, especially after all of the time and effort that has been dedicated by the teams to the routines to be performed. 

“My goal is for the girls, No. 1, is to have fun and to enjoy the journey they’ve had so far,” Thomas said. “This is their “GameDay”. This is their time to perform in front of their peers and compete. The only expectation that I have for them, and the one goal we have as a team, is to make it to finals. Making it to finals is our No. 1 goal.”

Stone explained that for the spirit squad, “(The) No. 1 goal is to hit. You really can’t control what other teams are doing, you can’t control how you place if you don’t hit your routines. So our No. 1 goal is to hit. Truly, if we hit, the team should do very well.”

Kansas’ cheer squad and Rock Chalk Dancers will travel to Orlando, Florida, Jan. 15–19, and compete in the UCA/UDA College Dance and Cheer Team Nationals, largest college dance nationals in the country. The team competition will be shown on a live webcast Sunday afternoon/evening at for a fee (go to the UCA/UDA website for the exact link). Finals will be shown on the ESPN family of networks a few times in the near future, usually starting in February. More details for the TV broadcast will be provided when they are made available. Check and the spirit squad’s social media platforms this weekend for results of the Nationals competition. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.###