By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer
Don’t be fooled by the Plant City High School cheerleading squad this year.
The girls you see on the sidelines of football games on Friday nights aren’t just about chants, cheers and pompons.
That’s because that same squad is also the competition cheer team, and they’re looking to do just that — compete.
“I decided this year to make my varsity sideline team my competition team,” said new head coach Karen Snapp, who has been coaching cheerleading since 1991. “This way, they are practicing the whole year together.”
Snapp has coached at several different levels throughout her career. She took time off before taking a teaching position at Plant City last year and got involved as an assistant with the Raiders.
When Snapp knew she would be taking over as the head coach for the 2012-13 season, she told last year’s squad about her plans.
“A lot of other schools do it where they pick the varsity and (junior varsity), and then they pick the competition squad later from those two teams,” Snapp said. “I just thought that if they practice together from the beginning that they’ll be more used to each other rather than throwing a new team together in October.”
Snapp is placing an emphasis on tumbling, a talent that hasn’t been a large focus of past PCHS competition cheer squads. In the competitions, squads are able to compete as either a tumbling or a non-tumbling team. Last season was the first time the Raiders competed in the tumbling division.
With the new focus, making the team proved more challenging this year. According to Snapp, 63 girls tried out, and only 32 made the squads — including two freshmen on the varsity team.
“I like to think that I treat it like any other sport — basketball, football or whatever,” she said. “I pick the team based on skill level and not age. If you had a 7-foot-5 freshman coming in to play basketball, would you not put him on varsity? So, if I have a freshman who meets my requirements, they’re going to be on varsity.”
Snapp said she is pleased with this year’s squad so far.
“There’s some stuff that they’re doing now that they weren’t doing at the end of last year, so they’re way ahead,” Snapp said. “They’re really talented and are a nice group of girls.”
The squad is anchored by seniors Ali Grimmel, Sara Brummer and Shay Wright, who have all been on the varsity squad since they were freshmen.
“Our theme this year is, ‘How do we want to be remembered?’ and we’re just putting in more effort this year,” Brummer said.
“We’ve all worked hard to get to our senior year, and this year, we feel like we’re going to win, because we have a lot more talent then we ever have had,” she said.
For Wright, the competition side is more fun because it features more complex routines.
Snapp hopes those routines can be crisp and aims to continue to work the team hard has they prepare for the winter competition season.
“Hopefully, the bar has been raised,” she said.
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