By Tamas Mondovics

Cheerleading squads, including those representing eastern Hillsborough County, got a chance to measure up their athletic skills last month against dozens of schools from around the state while competing in the 2016 Florida High School Competitive Cheerleading State Championships hosted by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA).

The roster of top talented local teams included the Strawberry Crest coed squad, which added one more trophy to their collection with a second straight title in the 2A Small Coed group.

The squad entered the competition on the heels of winning its fourth Western Conference Championship title and has celebrated placing third at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando earlier this month.

This year’s state competition also enjoyed the performance of the small division Durant High School cheer squad, which has confidently entered the competition with a list of great accomplishments under its belt including the girls’ ability to consistently hit their routine, while challenging themselves by adding harder skills throughout the season.

“The number one strength of the Durant cheerleading squad this year has been their ability to overcome adversity,” said Durant Cheer Coach Savanna Sortore. “Coach Nikki Hand and I are so proud of the squad’s hard work this season. The girls had put on a great performance and finished the season 7th in the state in the small 2A division.”

While pleased with the efforts of the entire team, Sortore spoke highly of senior Emily Bridges, who will be continuing her education at Santa Fe Community College to study Zoology.

“Emily has been integral to our success this season and I know I speak for the entire team when I say that she will be greatly missed,” Sortore said.

Of course Durant is not without its shining stars, such as the current squad’s only sophomore Sierra Garrett, who, according to Sortore, brings a great attitude as well as elite skills to the table.

“Sierra continues to push herself to improve and we are excited to see what new skills she has in store for next season,” Sortore said. 

The Class 2A Medium division saw Bloomingdale and Plant City finish fourth and fifth respectively, while at the end the Manatee Hurricanes claimed the Class 2A Extra Large Varsity title.

Hagerty High also shined with a victory in the 2A Large Varsity division, while the Gaither Cowboys won their first state cheerleading title in the 1A Large Varsity championship. Bartow High was unstoppable as it claimed its third-straight state title.

According to FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing, the high energy state competition is much more than just an annual event.

“The FHSAA takes great pride in creating wonderful lifetime memories and successful championship events and we are excited to bring the top cheerleading squads in Florida to a venue of this caliber,” Dearing said.

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