Plant City High School, Durant High School, and Strawberry Crest High School all traveled to the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, on February 2, to compete against other Florida high school cheer teams for a chance to win state championships, and they all brought home the gold.
-Plant City High School won the Medium Non-Tumbling Division
-Durant High School won the Small Non-Tumbling Division
-Strawberry Crest won the Small Co-Ed Division
All three teams qualified for the national competition, held this weekend at ESPN’s Wide World Of Sports Complex in Orlando.
Durant High School Cheer Coach Savanna Kolanowski explained how the team felt heading into the competition. “To quote one of our athletes, Keira Hodge, this team was “Hungry but humble,” Kolanowski said, “which I think perfectly describes these athletes. After ten years of coaching Durant Cheerleading, I can confidently say there has never been a more prepared team than this one going into States. Being physically prepared is one thing, but the mental toughness of this team the week leading to states has really been next-level. The team knew to keep their dream alive they had to hit two perfect routines. With that pressure on their backs, we, as a coaching staff, knew that mental toughness was going to be the determining factor in whether or not this team could pull it off. The team prepared for every scenario and pushed themselves each practice leading up to Friday’s competition. The discipline that these girls built mentally and physically and the bond that had grown between them as a team was evident in their confidence as they arrived at the State Competition.”
Heading into Nationals, the Cougars met their goal, so what happens next will be the icing on the cake. “Our goal for this season was winning a state title,” Kilanowski said. “Now that we have accomplished that, Nationals for us is about having fun and enjoying the last moments we have together as a team. We will prepare the same way that we did for states, working on our mental toughness and getting in reps to help with consistency in the routine. With our primary goal for the season accomplished, the pressure is dialed back and all we want is to go out and put amazing routines on the mat. As coaches, we want to ensure that the team is focused on enjoying this time, regardless of the outcome at Nationals.”
Plant City High School also had the goal of bringing home another state championship. “As soon as this season began, we started working toward the goal of bringing home another State Championship,”
Plant City High School Cheer Coach, Skotti Mesquita said. “We knew this team had the skills and the routine, but it was the mental toughness and confidence that would be the determining factor in if they would be able to come out on top. After months of mental and physical preparation, we were confident that if we hit our routine, we would be successful. Leading up to State Finals specifically, we were coming off an absolutely amazing routine and win at Western Conference, and a phenomenal week of practice. Ultimately, we were just focused on us and putting our best on the competition floor!”
The state championships gave them a confidence boost heading into the National competition. “I think this win gives the team more confidence heading into Nationals and I know they’re excited to get another opportunity to put an even better routine on the floor,” Coach Mesquita said. “Aside from winning our division at State, we had the second-highest score out of every single 2A team, sitting only behind Bartow, who is an incredible program. That builds further confidence in our girls and reminds them what they’re capable of. We have moved up in placement every single year at Nationals. We placed 6th in 2020 and 2021, 5th in 2022, and 3rd last season. We have big goals for Nationals this year and are focused on getting confident, clean hits that lead us to a history-making outcome!”
Strawberry Crest was primed for the state competition. “We felt very confident and ready for the win,” Coach Loveny Rivas Savarino said. “We prepped our minds for the big moment as well as physically. We had wonderful practices all week with hard, clean hits. This team would be the team to win its 10th consecutive State title for Strawberry Crest High School, so much time was spent preparing for the moment so we felt prepared to perform under such pressure.”
The Chargers are no stranger to winning. “Our program won Nationals in 2020 and since then every team thereafter has had the goal to become National Champions again,” Savarino said. “Our program is consistently in the top four in a very tough, competitive, and talented division. Although winning States is an accomplishment all on its own, we understand the high level of competition ahead of us and continue to train hard mentally and physically for our moment in front of the iconic castle at ESPN Wide World of Sports.”