LAKELAND – History repeated itself at the FHSAA State Cheerleading Championships January 22-23 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, as Bishop Snyder won a title for a second consecutive year after …
LAKELAND – History repeated itself at the FHSAA State Cheerleading Championships January 22-23 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, as Bishop Snyder won a title for a second consecutive year after failing to win its regional. Ridgeview was the runner-up to the Cardinals in the Class 1A Small Non-Tumbling Division, while Clay finished second in the Class 2A Large Co-Ed Division. Four Clay County schools participated.
After a third place finish at the Region 1 competition January 9 at Oakleaf High School, Bishop Snyder easily qualified for the finals in Lakeland with a score of 84.8 in the semifinals, a marked improvement from the 79.9 the Cardinals had received in the regional. In the finals, Snyder pulled out all the stops and executed a difficult routine to win the division with an eye-popping 89.5. The Cardinals’ path to the championship was very similar to the road they took in 2020, when they finished fourth at the Region 1 competition before winning the state title two weeks later.
Ridgeview could not quite recapture the form that had earned the regional title and an automatic berth in the Lakeland finals. The Panthers’ 83.2 was a little off from the 85.1 they had received at the regional, but still far outpaced Lakeland Christian, which finished third with a 79.4. The Panthers’ routine featured flyers that did roundoffs into their stunts, and hand-in-hands (stunts where flyers are flipped from handstands in the hands of their bases to upright positions).
“We had two drops,” said Ridgeview coach Aimee Stutz, who was pleased that her squad perfectly executed a difficult pyramid. “However, that was at the beginning of the routine and after that, the kids really came together and finished the rest of it strong.”
In the Class 2A Large Co-Ed Division, Clay scrambled from mid-week adversity to score an 85.95, claiming second place behind Bartow. The Blue Devils lost two athletes the week before the competition to injury, forcing freshman alternate Lilliana Jordan into action. Coach Lori Davis had increased the difficulty of the pyramid from the regional routine and had to make further changes due to the injuries. Clay got off to a rough start when senior Kylee Griffin turned her ankle on the landing of the opening tumbling pass. But Griffin, who will see an orthopedic specialist to determine the extent of the damage, tolerated severe pain to execute the remainder of the routine.
“Coaches and cheerleaders from other teams all called her [Griffin] a beast because they were amazed that she finished,” said Davis, who noted that Griffin had to perform multiple jumps after her injury.
Despite the injuries, Clay’s routine went well, with the only hiccups being Griffin’s touchdown and a fall during the opening stunt sequence. Davis was thrilled.
“Having all new guys this season, with injuries within the week, with last minute changes, with a new freshman added at the last minute and an athlete twisting her ankle and pushing through, we are so proud of this team,” she said.
Fleming Island made drastic improvement from a 62.85 received in the regional, scoring an 82.2 in Lakeland to snare third place behind the Blue Devils. The Golden Eagles routine features multiple stunts using just a single base for each flyer.
“We are right on track,” said Fleming Island coach Ryan Andrews. “Every year, we want to be as clean as we can be at States [the FHSAA state competition], but we want to make sure we are peaking for the [United Cheerleaders Association, or UCA] nationals and finish in the top five there.”
Middleburg improved on its score of 61.1 at the regional with a 61.9 in Lakeland, but did not advance to the finals in the Class 1A Small Varsity Division. The Broncos had only one fall despite some last-minute adversity. Kyla Sawdo, Middleburg’s best tumbler and middle flyer, was forced to miss the competition due to Covid-19 protocols. Senior Brittney Horton was brought in from the sideline cheerleading squad and learned Swado’s role in a two-hour emergency practice the day before the competition. Horton then hit all her stunts and tumbling passes in Lakeland, impressing head coach Rhiannon Weiskopf.
“This team rallied together and did a great job, considering,” said Weiskopf. “Overall, the routine went great.”
After qualifying for the state semifinals at the regional on January 9, Oakleaf was unable to compete in Lakeland due to Covid-19 contact tracing protocols. According to head coach Daniel Richardson, the Knights will not compete again this season.
Next up for Bishop Snyder and all the Clay County schools except Oakleaf will be the UCA Cheer National Championship competition at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando on April 23-25, 2021.