TAMPA - Clay and Ridgeview high schools won division titles at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Central Florida Regional in Tampa on December 5, leading a contingent of five local high …
TAMPA - Clay and Ridgeview high schools won division titles at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Central Florida Regional in Tampa on December 5, leading a contingent of five local high schools that earned bids to the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship to be held Feb. 5-7, 2021 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
The Blue Devils overcame a shaky start with a near-flawless finish to capture first place in the Medium Coed Division.
“We had two drops at the beginning but then pulled it together and hit the rest of the routine,” said Clay head coach Lori Davis. “Our running tumbling was great and the cheer was very energetic.”
Clay’s challenging routine featured hand to hand pyramids and round-offs by the flyers as they approached their bases to be lifted into full extensions.
Despite having a whole new slate of five boys who had never cheered before this season, the Blue Devils showed no signs of slowing down after winning last year’s FHSAA Class 1A state championship. Davis intends to clean up the current routine and then add more difficulty in between the FHSAA Regional Meet on January 9, 2021 and the UCA national championship.
Ridgeview, a rising cheer power under third-year coach Aimee Stutz, won the Small Varsity Coed Non-Tumbling Division at the regional for the second straight year. With only one drop during what Stutz called “the hardest routine we have ever done in my three years as head coach,” the Panthers punched their ticket to Orlando. Like Clay, Stutz plans to increase the difficulty of the Ridgeview routine in order to give the Panthers a chance to medal in Orlando.
“We know there are great teams who compete there, and we are excited for the opportunity to see and compete against them,” she said.
All of the Clay County schools who competed scored high enough to earn bids to the UCA national competition. Fleming Island was the runnerup behind Clay in the Medium Coed Division, while Bishop Snyder took second place behind Ridgeview in the Small Varsity Coed Non-Tumbling Division. Most of last year’s FHSAA title-winning Snyder squad is new, so coach Angi Brannan was pleased with Saturday’s result.
“We went in with the mindset of just getting a bid to nationals because we have a whole new team and because of Covid, so we are super blessed to have had the opportunity to perform and to get that,” said Brannan.
Middleburg secured a bid in the Small Varsity Division. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of Clay County’s teams, limiting the ability to practice stunts, which require close contact, and even the cheer portion of the routines. Oakleaf was unable to compete as scheduled in the Super Varsity Division of the UCA Regional due to Covid contact tracing protocols. According to head coach Daniel Richardson, the Knights’ eligibility for the national competition will be determined at a later date.
“This season is so different from the past with all the teams losing most of our summer practice time, plus dealing with all the Covid protocols,” said Clay’s Davis. “But I believe all the Clay County teams have worked hard to make things work and are just truly happy to be having a season at all.”