FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) — You’ve probably seen the UNA cheerleaders on the sidelines of the Lions football and basketball games. But later this week you’ll see them on an even bigger stage, representing UNA at the upcoming UCA Game Day nationals.

“It just kind of feels like a dream come true like we’ve worked so hard since my freshman year to get to where we are now, it almost seems unreal,” UNA cheer senior co-captain Addison Camp said.

The UNA cheer team is getting ready for an opportunity they’ve worked towards for years, competing in UCA Game Day Nationals for the first time as a Division I program.

“My freshman year we were practicing to go and then COVID hit so we couldn’t go. And then my sophomore year was COVID year so there was nothing we could do. So this is the year we all want to be here, we all know what our goal is. We have been trying to build this program so it means a lot, I know all of the girls have put in the same amount of work and effort and we’re on the same page,” senior co-captain Amari Bothwell said.

As part of the game day competition, UNA will perform their fight song, sideline, and timeout cheers against programs from all over the country.

They’re one of the smaller programs, but they’re using that to their advantage.

“We’re such a small squad right now. There’s 18 of us compared to the 30-something of everyone else so I feel like we use what we have to make it different and set us apart,” senior co-captain Tori Hood said.

“I really like our fight song. I’m super excited about that because we had a goal of making sure that we had our standing tucks and full-ups in the routine and we’ve been successful in that,” UNA cheer head coach Paige Creasy added.

Despite it being their first time in this division, the Lions say this is just the beginning.

“It’s a bittersweet moment because I would love to go again but I’m just glad I’m able to be a part of this and know that I helped build it up to this point,” Hood said.

“I hope 30 years from now that I still see UNA on the mat competing and I can say I started that, that’s very exciting for me,” Camp added.

UNA will compete in the opening round of UCA Nationals on Friday, Jan. 13, at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.