By Brooklyn Ward
The Utah State Eastern Spirit squad placed fourth in hip hop and third in jazz at the National Dance
Alliance and National Cheer Association competition’s junior college division in Daytona, Florida.
The USUE cheer team placed fifth in the junior college small advanced category.
There were more than 8,000 participants and 355 teams from U.S. colleges, with attendance estimated
at 20,000, the most ever in the championship’s history.
Cheerleading teams were judged on their skills in stunting and tumbling, and their ability to lead the
crowd. Dance teams were judged on choreography, technique and execution.
Utah State had never before sent a team to this competition. Brandi Taylor-Johansen, spirit squad
director and dance team head coach, had set a five-year goal to compete in Daytona. That fifth year was
last year, but the team couldn’t go due to Covid. This was the team’s sixth year and they accomplished
Brooklyn Ward, a member of the dance team, had this to say: “We were able to participate and
compete with such high-caliber teams and really push ourselves to be our best. In Jazz finals, we truly
left our hearts on the stage and we placed third, taking home a pretty large trophy on our flight home.
“Our cheer team went out and truly represented our school well. Their routine had so much energy and
personality it was so fun to watch. No one will ever be able to understand the amount of work that went
into this competition unless you were there. I loved every second of this experience and I’m sure any
spirit squad member or coach would say the same.
“Nothing will ever compare to walking out onto the Daytona Beach Bandshell and seeing the ocean,
feeling the Florida sun on your face as you are performing.”