REGINA - C-O-U-G-A-R-S. Let's go Cougars!

The University of Regina cheerleading team is hoping that chant will help lead them to a big W-I-N at a world championship event.

The 27-member team is heading to Florida for the International Cheer Union World University Cheerleading Championship next weekend.

"We're going to be the only team there representing Canada, so it's really exciting especially since there's going to be good representation from the U.S., as well as some Asian countries and (Australia)," said head coach Thomas Rath.

The Regina team got to this point by winning the small coed division at the Canadian National University Cheerleading Championships in Brampton, Ont., in December.

It was the Cougars third national title following wins in 2008 and 2010. They came in second in 2009 and 2011.

They're literally head over heels as they prepare to face the world.

"It was actually quite a shock," said Carley Weisbeck, who is in her third year with the team.

"We weren't expecting it. We weren't really aiming for it really. Just coming off of the high of winning nationals and just to keep feeling such an elation, it was amazing. We're all so excited."

Weisbeck said the team has been training all year, three times a week for three hours of practice.

"You know, we get really close as a team working so close knit together. A lot of work goes into these routines," she said.

Rath said members of the cheer team train just as hard as athletes in any other sport. He considers it a sport because it's demanding both mentally and physically.

"It's definitely a lot of hard work," said Rath.

"We're trying to use a lot of the elements that we've been working on all year, so we're not trying to learn brand new stuff as it's only been a month or so for preparation.

"But I mean we worked as hard as we could through the holiday season. It was kind of difficult with finals and then Christmas and New Year's, but I mean we try to get together as much as we possibly can and come together as a group and practice as hard."

The World University Cheerleading Championship attracts 200 of the current top university teams in the world and almost 4,000 athletes. It is broadcast live on the American sports network ESPN.

Rath said it's a great learning experience and he's optimistic about the team's chances.

"This is something that the club has never done, ever, and we've really never been exposed to something like this before," he said.

"This is something that I think all the kids, all the staff, we're really excited to go, take as much as we possibly can from this experience. But then you know, I think we're going to do very well for ourselves too. Our choreographers are very well connected and have let us know that we're up against some stiff competition, but that our skills are very much so right in the contending area."

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