Photo courtesy of East Bay cheerleading program. The East Bay cheerleading program wins its first cheer title in the school’s history.

The East Bay High School cheerleading program had a season for the record book, winning the first cheer state championship in the school’s history. They won the regionals and placed eighth at the nationals as well. The only other team from East Bay to win a state championship in the school’s 62-year athletic history was the 2010 softball team.

“Being able to win states meant so much to me,” said senior Mya Brown. “When I first came on the team as a freshman, I never thought my high school cheerleading career would end with me and my team winning states.”

The team was led by seven seniors, including Brown, who has earned a cheerleading scholarship to Webber International University. The other seniors on the team include Donasia Curtis, Isabella Kotopka, Jenessa Ortiz, Ethan Sisouphone, Jaden Santos-Lopez and Madison Tuch.

Seven-year Head Coach Tracy Howard said that the team’s unity was paramount to their success.

“Every one of them has contributed an enormous amount of time, love and dedication to our season,” said Howard.

Ethan Sisouphone is not only a leader on the team, he’s also the school’s valedictorian, with an outstanding 7.64 GPA. He will be attending the University of Florida in the fall.

“It’s such a big commitment in order to focus on athletics as well as academics. Personally, it took incredible amounts of discipline and time management in order to be able to cheer and do well in school,” said Sisouphone. “Through my journey of being a state champion and valedictorian, it took a lot of sacrifices to make school and cheer my primary focus. In the end, when we were announced as state champions, and when I was announced as the valedictorian at school, I felt that the commitment to both school and cheer was worth it.”

Santos-Lopez earned a scholarship for both football and cheer at St. Thomas University in Miami. The defensive lineman had a successful season on the gridiron, as well as great success on the mat during competitive cheer season. He is the first East Bay student-athlete to receive a dual-sport scholarship.

“It means everything,” said SantosLopez. “I’ve been working to get a scholarship for football since Pop Warner down in SouthShore for the Longhorns. It’s been a longtime dream for me to be able to play college football on scholarship. As for cheer, I never saw myself ever doing it, now I’m competing at the next level. It feels good to know my hard work has paid off, and that I was able to make my family proud both on the field and the mat.”

Because of the coronavirus, the team is still waiting for the opportunity to celebrate at their annual banquet and ring ceremony where they will receive their state championship rings. According to Howard, the goal is to keep the momentum going and win another state championship.

“Winning a state championship is something that has never happened before for the East Bay cheer team, so being a senior on the team that made history for our school is really something to be proud of,” said senior Tuch. “All of the seniors on our team were so encouraged and motivated all year, which eventually spread throughout the team. We wanted a state title and we fought for it. Being a senior only makes it better because now that I saw the underclassmen win, they want it even more next year, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.