THE National University Pep Squad made it two titles in a row in the UAAP Cheerdance Championship with a stunt-filled yet flawless performance before a record crowd on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Swaying and flying to the beat of drums in an Indian-inspired routine, the Bulldogs, with their men wearing Mohawk hairstyles, put on an inspired performance that reinforced NU's status as the new cheerdance power in the league.
What was expected to be a tight finish among NU, University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas wasn't even close in the eyes of the judges as the Bulldogs garnered 677.5 points to retain the title they won for the very first time last season.
NU coach Ghicka Bernabe said it wasn't easy to defend the title, considering the expectations raised by last season's breakthrough victory.
"Mahirap i-defend ang title, may pressure na kasi nag-champion na," Bernabe said. "Dati ang aim namin Top Three (finish) lang, tapos nag Top Three. Sunod (na aim) mag-champion, nag-champion.
"Ngayon ang aim namin ma-defend di lang ang two-peat but three-peat, four, five-peat."
UP's Pep Squad was denied a record ninth title after finishing runner-up for the second successive year with 658 points while UST, another eight-time champion, returned to the podium for the first time in three years by finishing third with 628 points.
The Bulldogs, however, were denied a double this season as Far Eastern University took the group stunts title, relegating NU to third place. UST took runner-up honors.
Although the Bulldogs' score was well below their record 696.5 points last season, the Sampaloc-based school became just the third team after UST and UP to win back-to-back titles in this side event that has grown in popularity since it was institutionalized in 1994.
For this year's event alone, no less than 22,000 fans watched eight cheerdance squads put on unique performances marked by the colorful costumes of host University of the East and the dragon-inspired Chinese routine of UST's Salinggawi Dance Troupe.
UP's Pep Squad even came in bearing a message of equality with black costumes adorned by rainbow shades, but its routine was marred by a couple of missteps, especially right at the beginning of the performance.
In contrast, the NU Bulldogs put on a performance that was lacking in errors but was never short in thrill and flare, marked by stunts executed to perfection.
Adamson came in fourth with 600 points while four teams which are likely to make it to the Final Four of the men's basketball competition - Ateneo, La Salle, Far Eastern University, and UE - finished in the bottom half of the finals standings.
FEU was fifth with 599.5 points, La Salle (557) was sixth, UE (503) seventh and Ateneo dead last with 494.5 points.