Adamson Pep squad performs during the 2017 UAAP Cheerdance Competition at Mall of Asia Arena. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

The anxiety felt all too familiar. After all, it wasn’t too long ago when Adamson Pep Squad coach Jeremy Lorenzo performed on the same mat, waited tensely for the announcement of winners, only to get crushed as his team went empty handed yet again.

His hard work, it seemed, never paid off. But it didn’t stop Lorenzo from hoping that a former cheerdance laughingstock like Adamson could go head-to-head with traditional heavyweights like University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas and National University.

“We’ve been so used to hearing UP, UST and NU [as the winners]. So this is really surreal, this is magical,” said Lorenzo after Adamson pulled off a shocker and captured the UAAP Cheerdance championship for the first time.

“I just kept thinking, is this really happening?” said Lorenzo, who suited up for the Adamson Pep Squad from 2007 to 2012 before taking over as head coach last season. “I feel so overwhelmed.”

Adamson pulled off a monumental upset as it ruled the UAAP Season 80 cheerdance competition in front of a crowd of more that 19,000 on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.

If it felt like there was a changing of the guard in one of the UAAP’s marquee events, there was good reason.

The surprise started a bit earlier when University of the East—which had missed out on the podium for the last 15 years—bagged the bronze medal to also put an end to a culture of tail-end finishes.

The only familiar sight on the podium was the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, but even that squad felt like a newcomer in the winner’s circle.

A traditional favorite, UST had fallen on hard times in the cheerdance contest, crashing out of the podium in four of the last six years. A silver finish sent a resounding message that it is back to reclaim old glory.

National University, the defending four-time champion, missed out on a fifth straight crown and finished tied for fourth and fifth places with Far Eastern U.

UE coach Dico Ili said the choice for a theme—UE went with Greek mythology’s phoenix—was reflective of the school’s struggles in the event.

“They say that we always fall down during competitions,” said Ili. “We thought of something relevant to our team. So we thought of the phoenix—it rises and it will stay there until it’s reborn again.”

UST coach Mark Chaiwalla, a former squad member who took over just this year after long-time coach Ramon Pagaduan moved to La Salle, also hoped that his team would regain its old glory.

“I’ve been with the highs and lows of this team,” said Chaiwalla, who was part of the 2013 batch that wound up with the team’s worst finish at seventh. “That’s why it’s really unexpected. It’s so overwhelming. We were just hoping for the best. Whatever the results, we would just accept it.”

Lorenzo wanted the same thing for his squad. He picked an ‘80s theme—but went with the 70’s disco fad complete with disco ball, glow sticks, glitters, and all—that turned out to be a showstopper.

“We wanted to step up the difficulty from last year,” said Lorenzo, admitting he knew that some thought their third-place finish last year was just a fluke, especially since UP had opted to pull out of competition as protest.

UP returned this year and finished sixth, ahead of La Salle and Ateneo.

Adamson’s near-perfect performance garnered 663.50 points for the victory. UST wound up with 638.50 points and UE with 634.50 points.

“I was totally speechless, said Lorenzo. “The moment that they announced that we won silver in the Group Stunts, we were already thankful. So when they announced that we won the gold in the cheerdance, I kept asking, is this real?”

It’s real, all right. And it’s a feeling that just might soon be all too familiar with the Adamson Pep Squad.

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