By Tamas Mondovics

It is safe to say that for most local cheerleading squads, the start of each new season is another chance to make mends, touch up on the skills and to support and cheer on their teams on the sidelines.

When the topic of the coveted annual Western Conference that has been crating rivalries between coaches and athletes the talented scheduled for the end of January makes its way into the conversation, the discussion usually turns a bit more serious.

Winning the title of the competition, normally held in late January, is not only a dream and goal of pretty much every squad in Hillsborough County, but a quest, a status symbol that seems to drive all the girls (and boys) to work hard and give it all they’ve got during the months of practice and competitions just to be unquestionably fit, prepared and ready for the few minutes of fame on the floor in front of their peers and the judges.

Local squads are no exception to the above, including the Spoto High School Spartans, led by cheer coach Denise Chenoweth and assistant coach Samaria Wright or the talented Riverview Sharks, coached by Andrea Hendrickson

With the goal of winning the Western Conference, Hendrickson spoke highly of the commitment and dedication already present at each practice and said that with the summer behind them, the 21-member squad is ready for the season.

“The season is looking very promising and we expect to do well this year,” Hendrickson said.

While directing a much younger and smaller squad, Chenoweth did not rule out her girls desire to make a formidable appearance at the coveted competition, but emphasized that the basic traits and attributes of being a cheerleader will have to come first.

“I would like to see the girls do well and earn the respect of the surrounding squads,” she said and added, “We will be competitive, but my first priority is to raise good girls who are proud of themselves for doing well both athletically as well as academically.”

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.