Oklahoma City University was selected to host the first-ever National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Competitive Cheer and Dance National Championships for the next two years. The competitions will be held in Abe Lemons Arena March 10-11, 2017, and March 9-10, 2018.
“Oklahoma City University has displayed a commitment to the growth and success of NAIA competitive cheer and dance for several years, and we were thrilled to learn of their interest in hosting this sport’s first two championships,” said Lynn Meredith, former NAIA vice president for marketing and communications. “We have no doubt their talented and experienced staff will host memorable championships for everyone involved.”
The NAIA is the only athletics association to offer a national championship in this sport. Competitive cheer and dance is the first to earn national championship status in the association in the last 22 years (women’s golf became a championship sport prior to the spring of 1995).
Competitive cheer and dance is entering its first year of national championship status, which requires a minimum of 40 institutions sponsoring the sport at an intercollegiate varsity level and completion of at least two national invitationals. Currently, there are 66 NAIA schools with intent of competing in the sport going into the 2016-17 season.
The OCU Stars are led by Alicia Bailey, who is entering her second season as head coach following the 2014-15 season as assistant coach.
“We are thrilled the NAIA has awarded Oklahoma City this opportunity,” Bailey said. “Oklahoma City has a huge competitive cheer and dance community, so having the opportunity to show young athletes what they do is now recognized as a championship sport is very special.”
Oklahoma City is a member of the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) and became the first-ever NAIA Cheerleading National Invitational champions in 2016.
In the 2016 NAIA Competitive Cheer and Dance National Invitational, Martin Methodist (Tenn.) won the cheer title with a two-day overall score of 94.44, followed by Oklahoma City with a score of 92.8. St. Ambrose (Iowa) won the dance title with a two-day overall score of 112.56. The event was hosted by St. Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa.
There are four qualifying tournaments to be held this month for the national championships.
The Abe Lemons Arena is located inside the Freede Center at OCU and seats 3,360 fans. The center is home to multiple volleyball and basketball courts, athletic training facilities, locker rooms and indoor running tracks. The arena has hosted 2009 and 2010 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, and the Women’s College Wrestling Championships are set to begin there this weekend.