BRADENTON -- Manatee High School cheerleaders are eyeing their fourth consecutive state championship in a competition at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa this weekend.
Led by second-year coach Ashley Choate, the 31-member varsity team has won the Florida High School Athletic Association Competitive Cheerleading Championship the past three years in a row, and gone on to compete at the national level. A school record may be set if the team finishes first again, Choate said.
"It definitely puts pressure on the girls. They want it so bad," Choate said.
With only eight seniors last year, and a first-year head coach, winning the state title was a surprise, Choate said, as the team considered it a rebuilding year. With 14 seniors on the squad, the team has high hopes for repeat success.
"They're all extremely tal
ented," Choate said.
The team will compete at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The team also will compete Feb. 6-7 in the 2016 National High School Cheerleading Championship at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The competition isn't run by the same organization that runs the state championship and isn't dependent on how well teams do in the state competitions. Varsity and junior varsity teams will be able to compete then, Choate said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.