ONE is the defending national champion hoping to outfox its rivals, while the other is the new upstart aiming for a victory to crow about.

Two Southampton cheerleading squads are today going head to head in the battle of the pom poms, as they compete in the national championships.

It will be the first time that The Vixens, from the University of Southampton, and the Ravens, from Southampton Solent University, have found themselves facing off in the sport’s biggest competition.

Until a few years ago, the two universities shared a cheerleading squad. But when their American Football teams were split, the dancers followed.

And now that the Solent Ravens’ squad has grown, they have qualified to compete at the same level as the Vixens.

In total, the two squads will be taking more than 80 girls to Nottingham to compete in the different categories at the ICC National Championships.

All eyes will be on Southampton’s Vixens, as they aim to defend their title. Club president Nancy Wong said that being champions has raised expectations, but after a win and a second-place finish in their other two main competitions of the season, confidence is high.

The 23-year-old post-graduate biochemistry student said: “We’re feeling confident, but don’t want to be too cocky.

“There’s definitely more pressure (being defending champions), but I think it’s more fun and I think it’s more rewarding.

“We’ve had so many injuries and mishaps, and training space has been a bit of an issue, so I wouldn’t take it personally.”

The Ravens may be the relative newcomers, but they are also entering the championships on the back of good results.

Social secretary Stephanie May, a 19-year-old second-year law student, said: “Last year we only had a squad of 15 to 18 girls, but this year we’ve got 36.

“We’ve come in the top three in all our competitions so far, but these are the most important championships. We train twice a week and have got really committed girls, and hopefully we’ll do ourselves proud.”

Both teams insist that they are actually all good friends rather than fierce rivals.

Stephanie said: “We wish them all the best. We get on with the girls very well and have had social events with them.”

Nancy said: “We’re a much more established squad, but they’ve come far for only starting a few years ago.

“At the southern regionals we both cheered each other on.”