Student Media of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri


Student Media of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri


Student Media of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri


Lindenwood Lions triumph at Daytona NCA & NDA: Cheer and Dance titles

Photo by Lionettes dance team Instagram
The Lionettes Dance team poses with their “HipHop National Champions” trophy.

The 2024 NCA and NDA College Nationals took place from Apr. 11 to Apr. 13.

The competition was held at the Bandshell and Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, where over 450 teams competed to showcase the work that they had been preparing for the entire school year.

Lindenwood’s representation at the competition was outstanding, with six teams running to get the title of “National Champions.”

In representation of Lindenwood’s Dance program, The “Lionettes” competed in DII Jazz and Hip-Hop, while the cheerleading program, composed of around 140 athletes, was split into six different teams that competed in different DII cheerleading categories:

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  1. Advanced Large Coed
  2. Advanced Small Coed
  3. Small Coed Intermediate
  4. All-girl Intermediate
  5. Group Stunt
  6. Spirit Rally

“Every nationals season process looks different every year. This year was challenging with lots of highs and lows. The thing about our process is, that no one sees it but our team. Our supporters, judges, and family don’t see the amount of work we put in, they only see the two-minute outcome in our performance,” Senior Lionette Brennagh McDonald said. “With being successful in our past, it is harder to keep your titles than to earn them. We knew this going in and it made us want to fight even more, to show everyone that we aren’t settling.”

All Lindenwood teams that competed at Daytona worked all year with almost no breaks in between, including winter and spring break, which led them to the results they accomplished.

“We have attended NCA nationals in Daytona Beach since I have been the coach and started in 2002.” Cheerleading Coach Carrie Belcher said. “This year we came home 1st in advanced large coed Div. 2, they hit a deduction-free routine on day one and had a pyramid issue on day two.”

Regardless, the team was awarded the “National Champions” title after they hit another deduction-free routine at finals, ending their season with their heads up high.

“I feel very grateful to be able to perform at such a high level and have a large program that is able to support us anytime anywhere, always knowing that we can be better and upping the expectations for other teams that we compete against,” small coed intermediate cheerleader Lydia Martinez said. “I feel like all the details, and every routine is very important, but everybody needs to acknowledge all the hard work and dedication that we put in all season long while still supporting other sports teams.”

The Advanced small coed team got 2nd place, falling less than a point behind Davenport University.

“They had some mistakes in day one and came back on finals to a beautiful routine but ended up having a pyramid issue and kept them in 2nd,” Belcher said.

The small coed intermediate team also came home in second, they had a pyramid issue on day one but had an amazing outcome on day two. However, they came out 2nd by a 0.15 of a point.

All-girl intermediate brought home 3rd place, having a deduction-free routine on day one which put them in 2nd place for semifinals but then a stunt came down on day two.

“This experience has meant everything to me and truly showcases what our program is about-we’re not just a cheer program; we’re a family,” Small coed/all-girl cheerleader Mikayla Garcia said.

Competing against more than 15 teams, Lindenwood’s stunt group brought home 7th with an incredible routine and the spirit rally got 4th place.

“This was a brand-new division for us, and we are beyond proud of what we were able to do in the debut year. Only four of the athletes out of 29 have ever competed.” Belcher said.

The sportsmanship and attitude that the Lions had during the weekend of competition made them stand out amongst the other teams, and even though they had certain issues as every team does, they never gave up on their goals.

“We had four kids that competed that had major surgeries in the fall that ended up working hard in therapy to get back out there. This winter we have been plagued by the flu and as always injuries, but it never stopped us from training and continuing to work towards our goals,” Belcher said. “Everyone has those issues, and they cannot become excuses. We found ways to keep moving because that is how you find success.”

Cheerleading is a sport that challenges athletes mentally and physically, but the Lions have always made sure that even with setbacks, every athlete feels like they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to.

“I got into a head-on collision over the summer that left me with a lacerated liver, a knee and ankle dislocation on the leg I fly on, as well as multiple fractures within my ankle that required an ankle reconstruction surgery. My recovery time was a yearlong… I was told I wasn’t going to have a season and tumbling wasn’t even in the question,” Garcia said.” Yet, there I was almost at my nine-month mark competing at nationals and tumbling. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the endless love and support from the entire program. I had to start from scratch, and they helped me rebuild myself from the ground up.”

No matter how hard the circumstances were, the athletes pushed through to get to Daytona in the best shape possible, with the support of their teammates and coaches they achieved great results.

“This is our 14th title for the university and although winning is our goal we also believe there is so much to learn from the journey. The memories and opportunities these athletes have had is something they will cherish their entire life,” Belcher said. “Overall, we are pleased with the results and the routines that we put on the floor. We are proud of the athletes and how hard they have worked.”

The Lionettes Dance team competed in Division II Hip-Hop against 8 other teams and Division II Jazz against 11 other teams. They were hoping for national titles in both categories as they have achieved in the past.

“We first competed jazz in semis round and we were in third place behind 2 great competitors,” McDonald said. “The scores were super close, so we knew we just had to keep our fight and show our Lionettes love to the judges.”

Even though their scores went up in the final round, the Lionettes ended up in 3rd place behind Valdosta State University and Davenport University.

The Lionettes got 1st place at the HipHop semifinals, and they admitted that they faced a bigger challenge going into finals since it is hard to stay first.

“Although we were thrilled about being in 1st, we knew we still had work to do to be a step above what we put out on the floor,” McDonald said. “After hours of a parking lot night practice, we fixed and perfected so much in our dance making it even better than it was before.”

The team brought home 1st place for HipHop and became nine-time National Champions.

“Nothing beats the feeling of all your hard work paying off. Celebrating with my team is one I will never forget, and I am beyond grateful for every second of our journey. Every year we are continuing a legacy of Lionettes, and we will forever be proud of where we came from and where our legacy goes,” McDonald said. “Lionettes love is something so special and I will forever love this team and the person it made me into today. We were beyond proud of what we put on the stage and the amount of love we showed.”

Daytona’s NDA and NCA Nationals have always been championships that most teams in the country strive for, the teams usually celebrate their victories by jumping into the water with their trophies. The competition gained even more popularity after the show “Cheer” was released on Netflix, and people from all around the country attend every year to support their favorite teams, including Lindenwood families and alumni.

“Coming to Daytona is always my favorite time of the year, but it looks a little different for me this year as an alumni.” Lionettes alumni Amber Titus said. “As sad as it is that I am not dancing this year, watching the Lionettes dance has been a core memory I will never forget.”

“Daytona Nationals” as many people refer to the championship, is an unmemorable experience for everyone, and it truly reflects the talent and spirit that the Lindenwood Lions hold.

“Cheer and Dance are like one big family here and everyone knows who Lindenwood is,” Titus said. “LU has made a name for themselves down in Daytona and I am so grateful to be able to not only be an alumni but to be able to watch all of the teams live up to their name.”

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Catalina Corredor
Catalina Corredor, Reporter
Catalina Corredor is a photographer and a reporter for Lindenlink. She is a senior double majoring in Cinema Arts as well as Mass Communication with an emphasis in Media Arts and Production at Lindenwood. She is an international student from Colombia and is involved on-campus with Sigma Sigma Sigma, Synergy Dance Association, and Lindenwood Cinema Arts Association.
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