All business: Cheer redemption at Nationals

Varsity cheer defeats season-long rival Bartram Trail for second national title in program history


photo by Everything Cheer Magazine

The varsity cheer team captured their first national title since 2014, the second in school history.

In January, the cheerleading team felt they were robbed. Beaten by rival Bartram Trail, the team finished second in the FHSAA 2A Large Varsity regional and state titles. But, after a “business trip” to the ESPN Wide World of Sports, redemption never tasted sweeter.

On Feb. 9, the varsity cheer team won the UCA National Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the second time in school history, the first back in 2014. They scored a 91.86 and edged Houston High School (TN) by .25 points to secure the title.

“We knew we were competing against the best and still came out on top,” junior Courtney Downing said.

Along with the national title, they finally defeated rival Bartram Trail, after losing to them in the two key matchups before.

“It felt so amazing to show everyone that we were the better team,” Downing said.

The Sunday win was important after the disappointment from the week before when only thing that kept the team from a three-peat was Bartram Trail High School.

Before this year, Hagerty had won five of the last six titles. In 2017, Bartram Trails prevented Hagerty from a four-peat, and again this year prevented a second three-peat in the last seven years. Bartram Trail placed first the other two times.

“They stripped us of a three-peat,” senior Madi McGrath said. “It was very disappointing as it is my senior year, but it only motivated us to do better at nationals.”

Prior to the regional and state championships, the team competed throughout the regular season. They have only lost to two teams throughout the year, Niceville, who finished fifth at nationals, and Bartram Trail, who placed seventh. Hagerty was beaten 83.6 to 82.0 at regionals and 88.60 to 86.05 at states.

As the season progressed, the team was always tweaking their routine to make it different, or even more difficult to impress judges for events.

The team thought that they had won the state championship, but judges favored the routine by Bartram.

“I believe we put out a better routine and that we hit and looked better than Bartram Trail [at states],” McGrath said. “But that comes with the territory of cheerleading, as it is dependent on opinion and spectators.”

Judging is scored by skills and execution. For example, a fall or a shaky stunt would deduct points from the total score, but the final scoring is dependent on judges’ interpretation.

“The best we can do is a perfect routine and from there whatever happens we can’t control, so we worked on what we could control,” junior Hanna Roberts said.

A “perfect” routine consists of no falls or stumbles, and the team felt they did that in Gainesville.

“We don’t worry about anyone else,” Roberts said. “We think about being the best.”