RedHawk cheerleaders win national title
The Martin Methodist cheerleading squad entered the NAIA Competitive Cheer & Dance National Invitational on Saturday, March 12 at Davenport, Iowa needing a near-flawless performance to have a chance at the program's first-ever national championship banner.
That banner is coming back to Pulaski.
Two Forrest graduates are on the cheerleading squad at Martin Methodist, senior Courtney Hollandsworth and sophomore Ali Bennett.
The RedHawks delivered the performance of the weekend as they overcame a fifth-place preliminary round finish and claimed the 2016 national title.
"I cannot even begin to describe how happy I am for these young men and women," RedHawks head coach Micah Hartsfield said. "We needed virtually a perfect performance today and they stepped up and delivered one of the best routines I have ever seen. I am so proud of this squad."
The RedHawks entered the day ranked fifth among the 12 teams after they posted an 86.5 score during the preliminary stage of the tournament.
But on Saturday, where 75 percent of the total score was to be determined, the RedHawks made their mark as they posted a 94.44 overall score -- nearly two full points ahead of runner-up and national powerhouse Oklahoma City University.
"We knew we needed a killer performance this afternoon," Hartsfield said. "Luckily, we have so many experienced and seasoned members of our squad that we were able to rally back. No one ever got too nervous and everyone did their part this afternoon. That calming effect was huge and allowed us to come out and perform the way we did today."
Host school Saint Ambrose (Iowa) defended its 2015 national title by winning the dance portion of the Invitational.
In cheer, teams were scored by three judges in the following 10 categories: standing tumbling, running tumbling, stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, jumps, choreography, degree of difficulty, showmanship and execution. The three judges' scores were then averaged and deductions were subtracted to account for each team's final score.
The win gave the RedHawks their first-ever national title in Cheerleading and marks the fourth NAIA national championship in school history. Men's Soccer was the last program to take home national honors, claiming the 2013 title in Montgomery, Alabama.
The RedHawks qualified for the national tournament by virtue of their win at the Midwest Regional in Lindenwood, Illinois in late February.
Martin Methodist closed its 2016 season with one final competition as they performed at the National Cheerleading Association National Competition in Daytona Beach, Florida April 5-10.
"Obviously this is huge for our program," Hartsfield said. "To win a national championship is always your ultimate goal. We will definitely savor this victory for a while, but we also still have another national tournament coming up next month. Hopefully this win will give us even more momentum as we get ready for Daytona."
The Martin Methodist Cheerleading squad saw its historic 2015-16 season come to an end with a runner-up finish at the NCA Collegiate National Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida on April 8.
The RedHawks delivered a flawless routine during the competition as they did not have a single point deduction during the performance. The RedHawks posted a total score of 91.63 -- just 1.2 points behind national powerhouse Oklahoma City University.
The event capped a whirlwind season for the RedHawks, which took home the national championship at the NAIA National Invitational in Davenport, Iowa in early March.
The RedHawks began their season with a gold bid to the NCA National Championship during the organization's summer camp. Martin Methodist continued its run with a wire-to-wire first-place finish at the NAIA Midwest Regional in Lindenwood, Ill. in early February. The Midwest Regional win sent the RedHawks to the national tournament where they rallied from a fifth-place first day finish to claim the national crown.
"This has been such an unbelievable year for our program," Hartsfield said. "The guys and girls have been such a joy to coach all season long. The momentum got started in the summer and we truly just kept building and building all year long. To win the NAIA national title was an amazing achievement that none of us will ever forget. And we delivered a flawless performance in Daytona. You truly could not ask for a better season and a better squad."
Final Overall Standings
1 - Martin Methodist (Tenn.), 94.44
2 - Oklahoma City, 92.80
3 - Concordia (Mich.), 91.80
4 - St. Ambrose (Iowa), 91.07
5 - Saint Francis (Ind.), 87.59
6 - Midland (Neb.), 86.58
7 - Graceland (Iowa), 85.66
8 - Bethel (Kan.), 82.71
9 - St. Gregory's (Okla.), 82.27
10 - Robert Morris (Ill.), 81.16
11 - Texas Wesleyan, 80.92
12 - Kansas Wesleyan, 78.93