Journey to States

Being the first year to compete in the district, the competitive cheer team set out to accomplish one goal…make it to the state championship competition.


Competitive cheerleading squad stopped for a photo in the Stephen O’Connell Center at the University of Florida before competing in the state championship.

Solangie Henriquez

After several years of cheering passionately and focusing on their goals the cheer team this year has finally qualified for regionals after a yearlong hiatus due to Covid-19.  

“I honestly feel the persistence of this year’s team is a lot better because there are people who have been here longer which is good to push the newer ones. I came here to push us to do better because now, we’re ready to go to regionals. I feel like all the motivation everyone’s going to have and put in is going to affect the younger teams who are going to come after us too, to want to go ahead and push to regionals,” Senior Arianna Flores said. “Honestly getting back into the stretches, getting back into the motion for people who were injured was hard. Three things that I struggled with were getting my strength and persistence back and stamina. I want cheer to take me as far as possible whether it’s a scholarship to a college or if I can do coaching in the future, whatever it brings me.” 

With a new cheer season, these cheerleaders are preparing to go to regionals. Since their first practice, their focus was winning regionals. Seniors, like Flores, want to help the newcoming cheerleaders with their journey on the team.  

“My first year on comp has been stressful and exciting. It is fun but with all the pressure of being the youngest flyer it can get hard. One big fear I had to get over was flying after getting my concussion and flying after a year off. When I cheered for middle school, we were just doing little things like basic preps, now I am doing much bigger stunts. Which I truly prefer over little things.  One thing our team has that can take us to states if our dedication, it’s the little things like having extra-long practices and everyone having the same goal,” eighth grader Nathalie Cristancho said. 

First time cheerleaders like Cristancho find themselves very thrilled to work alongside their trusted teammates. With this being the first time they qualify for regionals, there is a bit more pressure on first time cheerleaders because they do not have the same experience as the other girls on the team.  

“I think this year’s team works harder than our teams before, because we want to strive for regionals. This year we don’t have any boys, which means we all must work harder cause we’re all girls. Everybody is trying to get used to flying, back spotting, flying again, switching spots after a year, it’s hard without doing cheer for a whole year, and then having to come back and expect to do a lot. I’m working harder, I want us to go to regionals. We’re going to end off strong.  I’m going to miss the team and all the family bonding’s and all the parties, all the cries that we’ve had together, all the laughs and uniforms and everything,” Senior Chantal Perozo said. 

This year the girls are learning to adjust to the new team not having any male members. They have to learn new positions as senior Perozo stated. Not having boys on this year’s team makes it difficult for the cheerleaders, they must build more strength in order to carry and assist the other girls.  Since this is her last year departing from the girls, she started out with will not be easy.  

“I feel like the hardest thing for me as flyer was remembering where I go, how tight I have to be, or like the little things basically. I’m happy that it is my last year, but at the same time, it’s kind of like, not sad, but it was like, this is the only thing distracting me from like life. Last year, I should live my life and enjoy and what I can enjoy because like we have like four more months left. I feel like I am going to miss bonding with them and the little potlucks we have, but this year stuff is like bonding with them. I don’t think I’m doing cheer after high school I enjoyed the 4 years I had with the girls,” Senior Ketxihalyz Marrero said.  

 Coming back after a year off was not the easiest for these cheerleaders. They all had to relearn important skills and techniques. Marrero, like the rest of the girls, wanted everything to be perfect so the little things like being tight when in a stunt, riding up tight, and making sure their jumps were good were very important. 


“I am going to miss the family. Here, everyone is so close, and college is going to be like random people. Instead of stressing as much this year I am kind of just focusing on finding the fun in cheer instead of like focusing on winning, winning is still important of course, but I’m looking for the fun in it. I’m sad about leaving because this could potentially be my last year of doing so many competitions because in college sometimes it’s only games and maybe one competition. I am also hoping to get a scholarship for college,” Senior Keilah Tufino said. 

Senior Tufino has been here for several years since the team started. She wants to enjoy her last year as a competitive cheerleader.  

“This year I am being moved around more often as well as some of the other girls I used to be a full-time flyer but now I’m getting moved around to basing and even back spotting I feel excited because I get to do more than one thing and I get to have learn more to perfect the skills then I did just flying. We are super ready for regionals, and we are all very nervous but yet excited because it would be our first time that we  are qualified,” Sophomore Alexis Potter said. 

The cheerleaders had to be comfortable with having others learn their positions for the better of the team. Cheerleaders like Potter have been on the team since she was in 8th grade, she,like the girls, had to take a year off during her freshmen year.  

“This is definitely a different team than my last school this is my first-year coaching in competitive cheerleading so it’s great. The girls are great, the competitiveness is great, I love it. We are looking to go to states for the first time this year so that’s super awesome and I’m just excited on where it is going to go. I think the girls are doing well. Every time we give them something new to upgrade their routine it doesn’t take much time; they are doing it. I think they are doing awesome they’re hopefully going to hit all their goals they have for the year,” Coach Shannon Muller said. 

 The team placed at regionals and made it to states. The girls are super excited and are willing to work times harder to win states.  

My experience at states was very impacting and emotional, just the realization from as soon as I stepped on the mat and off were 2 very big experiences knowing I stepped up to perform for my last time and last year at that and stepped off feeling personally defeated that I did less than what I know I could’ve done. I was pretty excited for this specific routine with our adjustments with our different elite stunts, the aesthetic and visual pleasure when it hits smooth was really well coordinated by our coaches. It was almost a wakeup call when I was walking around and just seeing the college on campus environment. It was like wow this is where my future will be, and sooner or later. we placed top 15 in states overall,”  Flores said.  


Like Flores mentioned, it was a very different impacting experience being on a state mat opposed to a regular competition. These will be one of the moments that will stick with her and the rest of the cheerleaders for life.  


I think overall we did pretty good. Considering that half of our cheer squad was new cheerleaders who have no experience in cheerleading, even though they were matched up with another half of our squad that did have experience, they still had to learn everything that other girls have spent years learning all in one season for us to be able to go to states. This team is a lot different just because I didn’t have a cheer squad last year. So, most of my cheerleaders have not cheered in the past year. So, I think that posed a different challenge. We set out a goal four years ago to come to states and we achieved that goal in place top 15 in the state. And I’m proud of that,” Coach Jennifer Araujo said.