The following is excerpted from LDS Living. To read the full article, CLICK HERE

Twenty-two. That’s how many national titles the BYU Cougarettes had when they arrived at the 2023 NCA & NDA College Cheer and Dance Championships. And after placing first in the jazz and hip-hop divisions at nationals in 2022, the Cougarettes knew that everyone was asking one question: Can they do it again?

McKinley Hawkes joined the Cougarettes in 2018—since then, she’s danced on the last five national championship-winning teams. But when the Cougarettes arrived at Daytona Beach, Florida, in April, McKinley says the pressure was higher than ever had before. “There was a lot of pressure this year because the Cougarettes have never won back-to-back titles in both jazz and hip-hop,” she says.

But the Cougarettes had been preparing for nationals ever since the beginning of the school year, and they were ready to prove that they had what it took to win. “It begins in August when we choose our team scripture and create a short phrase which serves as our theme of the year,” says Lauren Billings Gambill, who also started dancing with the Cougarettes in 2018. “This year, our scripture was Doctrine and Covenants 6:36, ‘Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.’ … We recite our team scripture together every day at practice.”

The Cougarettes don’t just recite a scripture before rehearsal—they also set spiritual goals as a team, like reading the Book of Mormon daily and attending the temple regularly. “[Spiritual preparation] is vital to our success,” Lauren says. “We even watched conference together between rehearsals the week before nationals.”

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