Featured Future is a summer series where the Observer will highlight local student athletes who are preparing to continue their athletic and educational careers at the college level, or those who have already begun that journey.
After four years as a member of Plant City High School’s cheerleading squad, Callie Smith will continue to cheer as a member of the University of South Florida’s all-girl cheer team.
Smith began cheering at eight years old with the Antioch Redskins in Plant City, moving on to the Plant City Dolphins for recreational cheer and All Star cheer with Fierce Athletics. Eventually she made her way to Plant City High School where she now looks back on how much she grew as a member of the Raiders’ program, remembering how nervous she was as a freshman and how the deciding factor in even making varsity that year was her smile on the final day of practice. But that moment was only the beginning of her journey with Plant City Cheer, ultimately serving as a captain her senior year.
As a senior in 2022, the Plant City cheer team became the first all-girl team in school history to win a state championship when they claimed a gold medal in the FHSAA 2A Small Non-Tumbling division at the FHSAA Competitive Cheer State Championships in February, following a co-Western Conference Championship in January and a Top 5 finish at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships later in the month.
“We were actually the first state championship for any all-girl team in school history, so I thought that was pretty cool, but it was also getting the experience of leading the team as a captain,” Smith said. “It was weird seeing aspects of how the coaching changed from my freshman year to my senior year, seeing how different girls coming through the program makes a difference. There’s the work ethic and then seeing how the coaches are so willing to put in so much time and effort into making all of us better, not only as athletes but as people. I thought that was super neat. They always prioritized getting all of our schoolwork done, our HCC stuff finished, things like that. Then cheer, it would always come right after family and school.”
Now Smith will begin her journey at USF, with a Coed cheer team that boasts back-to-back UCA National Championships and an All-Girl team that has consistently finished as a top five program in the nation.
“It’s definitely crazy because my All-Girl coaches actually coached my high school coaches when they were a part of the cheer program and you can see how coaches can make athletes so much better,” Smith said. “The collegiate skills that we do are mind-blowing and I never, ever thought that I would ever be able to do that kind of stuff. The confidence that it’s given me… I’m not just a high school cheerleader anymore, I’m a DI college athlete. That’s mind-boggling to me.”
But cheering at the collegiate level was not something that Smith had always necessarily aimed for, remarking that it wasn’t until she lifted a state championship trophy with Plant City that she was determined to continue competing.
“Originally, when I was applying for schools, I didn’t have any interest in cheering in college,” Smith said. “But after I won states I knew that my journey couldn’t be over. I have to go higher, I have to win nationals, I have to get a national title under my name. And I think that with the amount of skill we have on USF’s team this year, I definitely think we have the potential to do something at the national level.”