For the second consecutive year, Tennessee Tech’s mascot, Awesome Eagle, won the Universal Cheerleaders Association Mascot National Championship in Orlando, Florida.
Competing against four other mascots, including Tech’s secondary character Grandpappy Eagle, Awesome beat out rival mascot YoUDee from the University of Delaware by 0.8 points. YoUDee has won the national title five times in previous appearances at the competition.
Awesome Eagle was confident he would bring the championship title home again.
"I knew that I was going to win again this year. There were only a few hiccups with the props, but none of that matters now. I left all of that in Orlando. This year was a huge accomplishment for me and for the school," said Awesome. “It is an honor and a privilege to win one championship for TTU, let alone two in a row.”
Even though Awesome Eagle won last year, this was spirit coordinator Andrew Halford’s first experience coaching a college national championship team.
“Coaching (the team) is easy because you can let them do their own thing,” said Halford. “Basically, I wanted to expand on what last year did.”
This was the first year Grandpappy Eagle competed in the national championship and the first year in UCA history for a school to have two mascots in the same competition. In the national championship, Grandpappy Eagle placed fifth overall, but the spirit squad hopes to continue to improve Grandpappy Eagle’s title in the years to come, said Halford.
For the championship, Awesome Eagle and Grandpappy Eagle competed in the open mascot division. According to uca.varsity.com, the open division consisted of five different mascots this year including: Awesome Eagle, Grandpappy Eagle, YoUDee from the University of Delaware, Will D Cat from Villanova University and Curtiss the Warhawk from Auburn University at Montgomery.
In addition to the open division competition, 10 mascots from larger sized schools competed in the Division 1A portion of the championship. Brutus Buckeye from Ohio State University went home with gold in this portion of the championship weekend and competed against other mascots including Aubie from Auburn University, Smokey from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Goldy Gopher from the University of Minnesota, among others.
Spirit squad member Robert Reavis felt prepared for the championship, but the drive to Orlando was nerve-wracking.
“On the way down, I definitely was nervous, if anything, just because I was helping drive the props down,” said Reavis. “Every little turn or bump, I was scared it would scratch a prop or bump something. At the end of the day, we were sure we had a good skit. It was rehearsed well and we were ready to go.”
In order to be selected to compete for the national championship, each team submitted a two-minute video to a panel of judges showcasing five different categories: the crowd, game situations, community involvement, campus involvement and spirit. Videos were submitted from mascots across the country, but only five were selected to compete at the national championship. Because of his submission video, Awesome Eagle started the competition in first place.
Before the championship commenced, the spirit squad was tasked with compiling a skit Awesome Eagle would perform at the competition. Halford said the entire skit was based off one joke. From there, the routine took form. Like the submission video, the skit had a grocery store theme using varying puns related to a typical grocery store, said Halford. To abide by competition rules, the team was not allowed to use more than 10 props during the championship performance. During the skit, Awesome subtly called out his rival mascots using a larger than life free samples stand and a meat freezer.
Awesome has competed in the UCA Mascot National Championship four times total since his first time competing in 2012 but has only won the title twice.
Spirit squad member Nick Gernt loved the opportunity that being on the team provided.
“I really enjoyed the experience of being around the mascots and coming up with ideas,” said Gernt. “Being there and being around the other competitors is a lot of fun.”
Most students are enthusiastic about Awesome Eagle’s success. Freshman psychology major Callie Lane explained her excitement when she found out Awesome had won.
“Awesome Eagle is a great mascot,” said Lane. “I’m pretty sure every student on campus has a picture with him and that’s too cool. I’m proud to be a Golden Eagle.”
Awesome Eagle plans to win the national championship again next year.
“I do feel like I'm turning into Michael Phelps in a way when I wear both of my medals and hold both my trophies. I'm going for a three-peat next year,” said Awesome. “I've got this. It's good to be a Golden Eagle."