OAKLEAF – The Oakleaf Sports Association will begin its 10th season soon and if it’s anything like last year, some more prestigious accolades are in its future.
The association is a community-based volunteer organization with baseball, softball, football and cheerleading. It’s the nearly 100 cheerleaders that act as the backbone of this association. Not only do they cheer on the sidelines at every Saturday football game, but they train rigorously to compete in national competitions where they might come home with a championship ring. That’s the case of the association’s 18U team known as Midknight Madness.
“We decided to give our girls the opportunity to push themselves in the sport of cheerleading and do year-round cheer,” Cheer director Ashley Levy said. “We competed around the state against other organizations like Varsity Athletics and Diamond Cheer and Dance, and we did so good that we received invites to compete in the largest recreational competition in the nation.”
The competition is The Quest and it’s held each year at Disney World in Orlando. Levy said it’s the Super Bowl of recreational cheerleading. Midknight Madness came home with a championship ring after winning first place. Midknight Madness cheerleader Kyliee Mraz said the experience was like nothing she had ever experienced.
She said her squad worked hard all year, training in the cold, the hot, the rain and even the dark to prepare for the competition. Little did she know that it would amount to a first-place title.
“We all cried and screamed when we found out we won,” Mraz said. “It was an awesome moment.”
The win last year was Mraz seventh year as an Oakleaf cheerleader and she said moments like that are one of the many reasons she sticks with Oakleaf Sports Association each year. She said it’s more than just cheerleading – it’s bonding with people that become your family and it’s a pay-off that you can’t get anywhere else.
“We got through so much,” Mraz said. “There are hard times but that’s because we work hard to win and that pays off at competitions.”
Another Oakleaf team, 10U, took home sixth place at the same competition and that team’s coach, Sunshine Snipes, said the team worked hard for it. Snipes’ squad was prepared for the gold but on the night before the competition, an unforeseen circumstance saw one of the squad’s cheerleaders unable to compete.
With less than an hour of time to change plans, Snipes said the team reworked their performance to work without the cheerleader.
“The stress of a last-minute changeup like that was tremendous,” Snipes said. “The reward was phenomenal though. The girls were so excited to place because they were so discouraged in the beginning but we did what we do best and came home with sixth in the nation.”
Competitions are a big part of the Oakleaf cheer experience but Saturday football games with the Oakleaf Knights are too. Football director Mason Davis said the Oakleaf cheerleaders are the best of the best.
“It’s really fantastic what we have here,” Davis said, commenting on how he and Levy both began in their director positions last year. “We’ve made a family out of these football players and cheerleaders. Our games wouldn’t be the same without them on the sidelines.”
Davis said one thing that puts Oakleaf above the rest is the way the community rallies around it. He said both football and cheerleading can be admittedly expensive but that the community always shows up to support the teams. Levy said the cheerleaders hold fundraisers throughout the year and the community always shows up financially to help them hit their goals.
Davis said partnerships with Clay County Parks and Recreation and Double Branch Community Development District give the association access to great fields and community parks to push teams even further. He said every football coach has semi-pro or college football experience and that this experience is leveraged to not only create skillful football players, but to build character within each team member.
“You’re getting more than just a football experience when you play with us,” Davis said. “That’s what puts us above the rest.”
Oakleaf’s cheer and football registration is already weeks ahead of schedule with more than 100 players registered for football and nearly 100 for cheer, both record numbers.
“We are so blessed to have a county that supports us the way Clay County does,” Levy said. “We bleed black and gold (the association’s colors) because we are proud to be Knights. Wherever we are, we represent Oakleaf and that it’s home. It’s not about just cheer, or just football. It’s about representing Oakleaf as a whole and that’s what we do.
“We are uKnighted.”