By Tamas Mondovics

Local high school cheerleading squads, among them eastern Hillsborough county’s Lennard and East Bay, got a chance to measure up their athletic skills last month against dozens of schools from around the state while competing in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) hosted its 2016 Florida High School Competitive Cheerleading State Championships.

According to FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing, the high energy event held at the USF Sun Dome late last month is much more than an annual competition.

“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.

At the end, Manatee Hurricanes managed to claim the Class 2A Extra Large Varsity title.

Hagerty High shined with a victory in the 2A Large Varsity division, while Strawberry Crest added one more trophy to their collection with a second straight title in the 2A Small Coed group.

The Gaither Cowboys won their first state cheerleading title in the 1A Large Varsity championship, while Bartow High claimed its third-straight state title.

Entering the competition with the loss of five girls due to injuries, the young East Bay Indians Class 2A Medium squad fell short of advancing to the finals.

“Our performance was not what we had hoped for,” Indians Coach Tracy Howard said, adding that at the state level, the competition demands the squad’s best performance to succeed. “Unfortunately we couldn’t execute that today, but I am proud of my team, for overcoming all of the adversity that came our way this year.”

Next in line to impress the judges on the first day of the competition was the Lennard Longhorns, who have turned in a nearly flawless performance to advance to finals—for the first time in school history—and finish eighth in the state.

“This is an awesome group of girls,” Longhorns Coach Terrina Taylor said. “They have put in the work and dedication to get to where they are today. I could not be more proud of this team.”

Also in the Class 2A Medium division finals Bloomingdale and Plant City finished fourth and fifth respectively.

For more information about local schools athletics, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us. For information about events at the USF Sun Dome, visit www.Sun DomeArena.com.