BY KAREN SUROS
After a long, challenging season, CCHS cheerleaders competed at the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) state championships in Lakeland this past weekend. For the first time in Cowboy history, the team not only made it to finals, but placed second at the state competition.
“It was such a surreal experience because it was the best we have ever performed, and the farthest Cooper City High School Cheer has made it to states,” Captain Makinzi Burgs said.
CCHS cheerleaders arrived in Lakeland on Friday, January 22 to participate in the two-day event. They enjoyed a team picnic before having their last practice in preparation for the competition on Saturday, January 23.
That next morning, after spending hours on hair and makeup in preparation, nerves were at an all-time high. The cheerleaders knew they were up against nine other teams and had to place in the top two in order to advance to finals. Putting these nerves aside, the team was able to put on a top-notch performance and do just that.
“We were all ecstatic after our first routine, and when we found out we made it through to finals, the adrenaline kicked in.”Junior Marissa Moore
“We were all ecstatic after our first routine, and when we found out we made it through to finals, the adrenaline kicked in,” junior Marissa Moore said.
After hitting a perfect routine, CCHS placed first in semi-finals, allowing them to move on to finals. For the team, this was enough of a feat. Two hours after their first performance, they gave another masterful routine. While they were focusing more on their excitement than on placing, they were able to win second place anyway.
“It was amazing,” junior Madison Smith said. “It was really unexpected for us to do as well as we did, and our main goal was to make a name for our team. With the way the announcers were talking about us, it’s safe to say we did that.”
Coaches Julie Fernandez and Jillian Shaffer, in collaboration with Captains Makinzi Burgs, Riley Petrone and Amber Sanders, led the CCHS cheerleading squad to success at finals. But of course, cheerleading is a team sport, and one would be remiss not to include every single part of the team and all their hard work in congratulating this success.
“[I am] very proud of my girls and how much work and hours we put into this season.”Captain and senior Riley Petrone
“[I am] very proud of my girls and how much work and hours we put into this season,” Petrone said.
Given the pandemic, the cheerleading team faced unprecedented challenges over the course of the season. A few members had to leave due to exposure to the coronavirus, and at various points throughout the season, the team would lose people for weeks on end.
“It’s difficult because cheer is such a team sport [to the point] where if you miss one person, the team can’t function,” Smith said.
Ultimately, though, it might have been these roadblocks that led the team to do as well as it did at finals, as they bonded over their struggles. After placing fourth at regionals, they qualified for states, where they ultimately won second place.
“Our team was much smaller, so we worked together better and were much closer than other years,” Smith said.
“Our team was much smaller, so we worked together better and were much closer than other years.”Junior Madison Smith
COVID-19 not only impacted the season, but also what the state championships looked like. Normally, the competition is held in Gainesville, but this year it was relocated to Lakeland.
CCHS Cheer’s division is 2A, and they competed in two sessions as opposed to the typical competitions that take place in the same timeframe. Parents were not allowed down from their seats onto the stadium floor to cheer for their kids, and masks were mandatory at all times except while on the floor competing. Usually, teams take a professional picture before they compete, but this was omitted for this year’s competition.
Despite these changes and the general hardships the team faced this season, they prospered like never before, making history as the first CCHS cheer team that has made it to finals at state championships.
“I am so proud of everyone on the team and so thankful for our amazing coaches,” Burgs said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it with them!”
Photo courtesy of CCHS Class of 2021 on Twitter