The Lake Mary High School cheerleading team captures its fourth State Championship in a row
Who says good things come in threes?
For the Lake Mary Rams Competition Cheer Team, they come in fours.
The team won the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Competitive Cheerleading state title at the University of Florida on January 31. It’s the fourth year in a row the team, led by Coach Paige Black and assistants Paul Tucker and Octavious Miller, has come home with a State Championship trophy from the Gainesville event.
“I did feel good about it, going in,” says Paige of the competition, and her confidence paid off.
Paige began coaching at Lake Mary High School when her daughters McKenzie and Kylie, now 24 and 21, cheered for the Rams. Lake Mary did not have a competitive cheer team at that time, and Paige was determined to start one.
The varsity team Paige discovered at Lake Mary High had a lot of talent and just needed to be introduced to the concept of competitive cheer. It was a concept Paige knew well.
The experienced coach is originally from Alabama, a state that takes its cheerleading seriously. She is a former cheerleader and dance-team member, herself. And since Paige began coaching the Rams, you could say she’s found some success... four State Championships in a row!
A Winning Combination
Assistant Coach Paul Miller credits Paige with committing to the school and to the athletes. Her dedication has helped the group overcome obstacles and challenges.
“Some of our athletes have moved, changed schools, or left the team,” Paul says, “but the team was unwilling to let that hold them back.”
In all, 32 athletes competed in the Extra-Large Competitive Cheer division this year, with 27 on the mat for the winning performance.
“It’s all about teamwork,” says Paige.
It’s more difficult to coach a team so large, but Paige says that the reason Lake Mary High competes in the extra-large category is so that more students have a chance to participate and represent their school.
In this team’s case, they also get the opportunity to experience the joy of victory, times four.
Disciplined & Determined
FHSAA regulations require that teams not work on their competitive cheer routines until mid-October. In addition to two days a week of regular practice, the cheerleaders – led this year by captains Makayla Kunkel, Hannah Otero, and Anna Kate Stoner – added another day of weekly practice this year.
Lake Mary High School’s two-and-a-half-minute winning routine was set to a pop-song compilation. It involved a minute of cheering and a minute and a half of jumping, tumbling, and dancing.
Paige firmly believes cheerleading is a sport with real-life, applicable skills.
“They have to be committed,” she says of her cheerleaders. “They have to be on time, in uniform, and they have to practice unity and teamwork.”
Seeing how hard the girls work, Paige doesn’t understand how cheerleading, with its injury risks and the level of athleticism it requires, is ever questioned as being a real sport. Not only do participants need to be athletes in top shape, they also need to be on top of their game to hit their marks and perform in sync with one another, she says.
“It teaches them how to persevere,” says Paige.
In the FHSAA State Competition and at the Universal Cheerleading Association’s National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando days later, where the Rams placed as finalists, the perseverance has paid off four times over.
“They knew that if they trusted us as coaches and did what we asked them to do, they would succeed,” says Paul, “and they did.”
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