The University of Memphis Pom Squad recently competed in the 2023 UDA College Nationals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Memphis Pom placed 3rd in the D1A Hip Hop category, claiming their place as one the top collegiate dance teams in the nation.
This is a place that this team knows well.
For decades, the University of Memphis Pom Squad has been widely recognized as one of the best teams in the nation. They’ve won 15 national titles, including nine consecutive titles from 1986-1994. It has been almost 40 years since their first title win in 1986, and since then, each team that followed has strived to continue to meet the standard that was set before them.
Now led by Coach Carol Lloyd Cross, the Memphis Pom Squad continues to maintain a level of excellence in the dance world, while also creating a culture that attracts the attention of young dancers across the country. A culture that dancers like Lauren Baggett wanted to be a part of.
“I really looked up to the dancers and Carol very much before joining the team,” Baggett said. “I wanted to be a part of the best and coached by the best, and with that, I chose Memphis.”
Lauren Baggett is a senior from Charleston, SC. Baggett, who grew up dancing in a competitive studio, always knew that she wanted to dance for a college team that was strong at hip-hop. After attending Memphis clinics with her high school coach who previously danced at Memphis, she was drawn to their family atmosphere and unique style of dance.
“Memphis always had this undeniable, welcoming energy. They stand out and have their own style in everything,” she said.
Now, Lauren Baggett is a part of that family. Baggett has been on the Memphis Pom Squad for four years now, but when she first made the team freshman year, she couldn’t deny the intimidating feeling that came with joining a team that had already accomplished so much.
“I definitely felt the pressure,” she said. “I came from a small high school team where there was only about 12 of us and jumped to a 14 time nationally ranked team with 28 girls.”
Lauren didn’t let the pressure get the best of her. Instead, she used the pressure and high energy from her teammates as motivation to get better. This is something that teammate Calista Elliott did as well.
“I would say it put pressure on me to be great,” Elliott said. “It is an awesome feeling, knowing that the program you are in has been held to such a high standard and has a great legacy behind it.”
Calista Elliott is a junior from Oak Ridge, TN who has been a part of the Memphis Pom Squad for three years. Like Baggett, Elliott has danced most of her life, and she was exposed to the program at Memphis by Memphis Pom alumni. Her interaction with the teams and the appeal of dancing for a coach like Carol Lloyd Cross helped her come to a decision to choose Memphis.
“There is just a vibe that no other college dance team has,” Elliott said. “I was like oh, they are so cool I want to be them, I want to be in their shoes.”
Since joining the team, both Baggett and Elliott have dedicated most of their time and energy to the sport and everything that comes with it. In 2021, they were able to see their hard work and dedication pay off when the University of Memphis Pom Squad was crowned National Champions at the 2021 UDA College Nationals.
“It was just so rewarding to accomplish 1st place in the nation,” Elliott said.
While they have the resume to back up their legacy, most people don't know the amount of work and athleticism that is required to perform at a high-level on a day-to-day basis. The Memphis Pom Squad is known to perform on game days, but many don’t know that their season consists of so much more.
“I wish more people knew about our national competition,” Elliott said. “We come to Memphis not only to support our school and UofM sports, but to compete at the collegiate level against so many other talented college dance teams, and a lot of people don't know much about it.”
Between dancing at football and basketball games, appearances, and preparing for nationals, the pom squad has a schedule that requires year-round preparation. For the Memphis Pom Squad, there is no off season. They spend their summers in camp learning routines and conditioning for game days, and when the football season starts, they start to prepare for nationals on top of performing at games. This means longer and more intense practices.
“People are often shocked with how long we practice, but the amount of mental and physical work we put into perfecting these routines is what it takes to be that high-level competitor in all of our divisions,” Baggett said.
The intensity level and length of practices are heightened even more when basketball season starts. At this time, their appearances, game days, and practices all start to overlap. The team is in “full grind mode” as they focus on making sure their routines are up to par for nationals.
Come January, it is time for the team to compete, and although the work is hard, the reward is always priceless.
There is nothing like competing and placing at a high-level yearly, but for Lauren Baggett and Calista Elliott, the impact that comes with being on the Memphis Pom Squad is much deeper than just dance.
Through all of the long practices, appearances, and game days, both Baggett and Elliott say that the bonds that they built and the lessons they learned throughout their time on the team will be some of the things they cherish the most.
“I'm so honored not only for the impact we make as a team going through this program, but for the huge impact it will have on me in life,” Elliott said.
Baggett shares the same sentiments.
“Being a part of Memphis Pom will forever be one of the greatest highlights in my life,” she said. “I will always cherish the countless memories, friends and lifelong lessons that I have learned from being at Memphis.”