BY GENE NARDI
Local high school cheerleading squads executed their best routines on Saturday, Nov. 12 at John I. Leonard High School in the first of a series of competitions.
Seminole Ridge, Palm Beach Central, Royal Palm Beach and Wellington high schools’ cheerleaders participated in the season-opening event that drew eight schools from around Palm Beach County.
Wellington earned first place in the overall cheer division. Seminole Ridge grabbed first place in the full routine division and second place in the overall cheer division. Palm Beach Central earned second place in the full routine division, and Royal Palm Beach received fourth place in the overall cheer division.
The competition serves as a formalized round of critiquing, so the teams can work out their kinks after being evaluated by a panel of judges. By FHSAA guidelines, squads are required to attend a minimum of four events to prepare them for the regional and state competitions, and expectations are high for all the area squads as the season gets underway.
The Hawks placed first in regional competition and placed third at the state finals last year. “Last year was our first year in small coed, and we did pretty well,” Seminole Ridge cheer coach Tamara Licavoli said. “Half of our team is new, but I feel strongly we’ll do as well as we did last year, if not better.”
Palm Beach Central’s first-year cheer coach, Capella Flaherty, has high hopes for the Bronco team. “Expectations are very high,” she said. “I think with the new cheer and the difficulty in our stunts being way up there, then we’ll tweak a few things, and we’ll be a big competitor.”
First-year Wellington coach Dan Tyrie said the focus on his squad is a lot of practices and stunting. “We expect to compete at the national level in Orlando this season,” he said, noting that Wellington came in second place at the FHSAA state championship last season.
Stephanie Brodbeck of Pro-Cheer International has been involved with training cheerleaders in the area for the past six years and was on location in support of the several squads she and her group have worked with.
“For the most part, this is a season opener,” Brodbeck said. “The season started a month ago, so all the teams were picked, the routines choreographed, so everything you saw was put together in the last four weeks.”
The competition is more of a support function for the teams to prepare for the season, Brodbeck said.
Royal Palm Beach head coach Jessi Sleek also has high hopes for the Wildcats squad. “Last year, we had a very young squad, mostly JV girls participating in competition,” Sleek said. “So our expectations are better this year, and their skill level is better than last year, and we want to go to states.”
All the local squads continue to practice their routines to improve their skills after reviewing their critiques from the first competition, and with the bar set high, it will not be surprising to see the area schools represented at the state competition this season.
ABOVE: The Palm Beach Central full routine squad finishes strong.