Winning the title is one thing but defending it in an unusually short time of preparation is another.
The Far Eastern University Pep Squad is sure to have its hands full as it tries to extend its reign in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 Cheerdance Competition on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Seven months after FEU ended a 13-year title drought, the Randell San Gregorio-mentored Pep Squad will try to write history as the first team to win back-to-back titles in one year after capturing its third overall crown last May when the competition made its return after two years due to Covid-19 pandemic.
FEU will be the sixth team to perform in the much-anticipated performance event set to begin at 4 p.m.
“It’s a very difficult process for us because you’ll go through what they call the burnout phase. I’ve been competing in different competitions local and international but the pressure here in the UAAP is on a whole new level, I don’t know why?” San Gregorio said.
FEU will have a Francis Magalona-themed routine in the competition that is expected to draw larger crowd with more relaxed Covid restrictions.
“After the bubble, we had a short rest but it was not enough because we got back into training. For the lack of a term, I’d say it gives us a tremendous amount of stress. The pressure is there,” San Gregorio said.
“But at the same time as defending champions, we also have an opportunity to make history. If we win again, we win two in a row in one year. I think that will never happen again unless there’s another pandemic which of course nobody wants to happen.”
“We’re holding on to that opportunity plus FEU never had back-to-back titles. That’s our motivation.”
Unlike in Season 84, this edition returns to the pre-pandemic format where each team can field a maximum of 25 performers and each routine can last up to six minutes max.
Drums are now also allowed inside the venue, which is open to a full capacity crowd, with two snares and two basses per squad.
In the previous season, teams are only allowed to have 15 performers and each routine ran for only three minutes.
Season 84 runner-up Adamson Pep Squad will be first to perform with an R&B and reinvention-themed routine followed by the University of the East Pep Squad using a P-Pop-inspired performance, University of Santo Tomas Salinggawi Dance Troupe will have a monster theme while the De La Salle University Animo Squad will pay homage to Janet Jackson.
The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, on the other hand, will have a “forever” theme, former six-time champion National University Pep Squad will showcase a cheerobics routine as it tries to rebound from a bronze medal finish in Season 84 while the University of the Philippines Pep Squad will be the last to perform.