They did it. After two straight years of agonizing losses to Orlando Boone High School at the FHSAA Competitive Cheerleading Championships, the Manatee High School cheerleaders were crowned the 2013 Class 2A Extra Large Varsity Division Competitive Cheerleading State Champions.
The squad claimed Manatee's first state title in cheerleading and joins the MHS 2011 state champion football team as the only teams to win a team state title for MHS in this millennium.
Suspense and nervousness lingered in the air at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, home of the FHSAA state competition. The MHS cheerleading team competed against 10 other squads in the preliminary round of the state championship. Having the highest score in the state from the regional competition, the 'Cane cheerleaders were favored to win from the beginning. But after a less-than-perfect performance in the preliminary portion of the state competition, MHS cheerleaders and fans were anxious that Manatee might not advance to the final round of the championship.
"I wasn't nervous at all. I knew we lost and I accepted it after a while," said Sandy Gorgy, a junior member of the team.
When the time came for the two teams that would continue to finals to be announced, the MHS fan base was in a dead silence. And then, the announcer said the first school. The sea of red and blue thundered with applause -- Manatee would be competing for the state championship against Lake Mary High School.
After approximately three hours, the showdown between Manatee and Lake Mary began. LMHS performed first and suffered one stunt group fall. Manatee performed their routine flawlessly.
"I felt great," Gorgy said. "I knew after we hit that perfect routine that we were state champions. It was such a relief and a true achievement."
Moments later, the announcer declared Manatee as the 2013 2A Extra Large State Champions and prompted "We Are the Champions" by Queen to play. After two years of receiving silver, team members finally wore gold and hoisted their invaluable trophy.
"Holding the trophy was the best feeling ever. It really made me think about how much I truly love cheerleading," Gorgy said.
This year, the cheerleaders made finals at the National High School Cheerleading Championship, held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, for the first time in school history. Placing 10th in the nation capped off this year's wildly successful competitive cheerleading season.
"It was great to see the other talents the other teams have and compete against them," said Kaitlyn Horton, a sophomore on the team. After going undefeated in all of our competitions this year, it was a great way to finish the season."
Any students interested in becoming a MHS cheerleader can find an application in the front office or on the school's website. Tryouts will be held in early April.