The NU Pep Squad is ready to defend its title with another "death-defying routine" in the UAAP Season 82 Cheerdance Competition on November 17 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"Since everyone is expecting a lot from us, it's a failure for us if we don't give a great performance," said NU head coach Ghicka Bernabe. "We don't have a choice but to do a death-defying routine, a very hard routine, because we can't play safe. If we play safe, it won't be the same NU Pep Squad that we got known for."
After a failed five-peat bid in 2017, NU reclaimed the cheerdance crown last season with a flawless performance inspired by the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday depicted in the Disney movie Coco.
This year, the reigning champions vow to show something different. "We'll give a more exciting performance. It's very far from the previous years. Now, it's a tribute to all Filipinos," said Bernabe.
As the gold standard of UAAP cheerdance in five of the last six years, Bernabe admits that it's getting harder to surpass the high level that they themselves set in previous years.
"Our routine is more difficult in terms of pyramids and stunts. We also focused on our tosses because if I'm not mistaken, we didn't rank first in tosses before [compared to] the previous years where we got a high score on that," said Bernabe. "We'll have many difficult transitions in our pyramids and we also polished our dance, so that we can balance the cheerleading and cheerdance side."
The heartbreak that the NU Pep Squad experienced two years ago -- when they missed the podium altogether and finished fourth -- fuels the team to continue working hard to stretch their winning streak.
"This coming 2019 competition, we prepared not just times two of how we prepared last year but times 10," said Bernabe. "We got heartbroken in 2017 and most of our supporters also felt that pain. It's like we broke up with someone. So now we don't want our community of supporters to feel what we felt before."
The DLSU Animo Squad will perform first, followed by the UE Pep Squad, the UP Pep Squad, and the Ateneo Blue Babble Batallion.
The FEU Cheering Squad, last year's runner-up, will perform sixth. The Adamson Pep Squad, the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, and the NU Pep Squad will then close out the competition.
UST and UP are still the winningest cheerdance teams in UAAP history with eight championships each.