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Competitive Cheer- A cheerful season begins

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On November 20th, Weeki Wachee High School hosted the school’s first competitive cheer event. The Hornets Cheerleading Coach Carissa Edwards sent invitations to cheerleading squads at Springstead and Gulf to compete in a head-to-head competition. “We are trying to build up cheerleading within the county. I know all the other high school coaches share the same goal, and this is a really great way to do that,” Edwards said. 

Starting the season off by participating in a head-to-head competition gives cheerleading coaches the opportunity to see how their squad performs under pressure and the team can get accustomed to that pressure, performing in the presence of judges. “We’re just getting our routines out there, and what can we do to improve ahead of the bigger competitions that we have at USA regionals where we can earn the bid to go to nationals. So this competition was great. We really found our strength. We are proud of ourselves for keeping up with our successful performances with our game-day routine,” Edwards said. 

Springstead’s Cheerleading Coach Shannon Herod continues to develop her squad’s unique routines.  “This is the first time we have hit the mat this season and our first time to go out and do our routine in a crowd. The girls did amazing,” Herod said. 

Springstead cheerleaders perform at the Weeki Wachee Invite held on November 20th at Weeki Wachee High School. “I tell them when we started, what I expect of you is your best, and what your best is what I want you to give me because I know what that looks like, and they exceeded their best yesterday,” said Shannon Herod, Springstead cheerleading coach. Photography by Alice Mary Herden.

According to FHSAA Competitive Cheerleading competition rules, high schools must have at least four head-to-head competitions to get to regionals. And even though the event was small, it was powerful. The coaches received the feedback they needed from the judges to fine-tune and define their routines.  “Our goal is always to take the positive and negative to get ready for the next competition. We wanted at this competition for our girls to go out and feel that achievement but also to hear the judges tell us what they think of our routine,” Herod said.

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Competitive Cheer Results

Weeki Wachee took first place in the ‘Game Day’ competition and Springstead placed second.  In the ‘Traditional’ competition, Springstead placed first, Gulf came in second, and Weeki Wachee placed third. 

The next competition is at the Tampa Convention Center on Saturday, December 4. Cheerleaders will be performing in the UCA Regional Competition. 

Winding Waters cheerleaders perform at the Weeki Wachee Invite held on November 20th at Weeki Wachee High School. Photography by Alice Mary Herden.

The Youngest Team

A bonus during the event was the opportunity to see the Winding Waters K-8 Yellow Jackets perform.  

Jen Calderon, Winding Waters’ cheerleading head coach remarked,  “To see the girls be so unsure of themselves, and to see them perform almost perfectly, that is why I do it,” Calderon said. “The girls have worked really hard to accomplish what they have accomplished in such a short period of time. Yesterday for us, we were the only middle school participant, and it was really just a showcase. I wanted the girls to get the experience of what competition was like. My girls did really well.”

Springstead cheerleading coaches cheer after their squad performs their routine at the Weeki Wachee Invite held on November 20th at Weeki Wachee High School. Photography by Alice Mary Herden.
Alice Mary Herden
Alice Mary Herden is an award-winning professional photographer and writer focusing on nature and wildlife. From 2008 to 2021, Alice has owned Green-Fly Media LLC, a freelance photography business. She freelanced for Hernando Sun for five years covering sports, community, and environmental reporting. Alice was nominated for Agricultural & Environmental Reporting for articles published in Hernando Sun in the Florida Press Association Weekly Newspaper Contest. She placed second for Agricultural & Environmental Reporting and was awarded first place in Portfolio Photography in 2018 and took home first place in 2019. She was awarded the Robert J. Ellison Memorial Award for Portfolio Photography in 2018. She published three online magazines, Voices to Visions, a Dust and Shadows Magazine, which featured haunted locations and interviews with paranormal celebrities. Football Magazine was the first minor league football magazine in the state of Florida based on the United Football Federation football league that featured game coverage, interviews including former NFL players and College Coaches. She also created RAW- Real Amazing Wildlife featured nature and wildlife photography. Since 2015, Alice has been a volunteer at Chinsegut Conservation Center located in Brooksville, Florida. She helps with programs as well as organizing nature photography workshops. Alice is also a co-organizer for the yearly event ‘Chinsegut Wildlife Day’ and the ‘Wild Florida’ Photography Exhibit. Alice obtained two career diplomas, Wildlife/Forestry Conservation and Freelance Writing, from Penn Foster in 2019. She completed the Florida Master Naturalist Program core module courses: Upland, Freshwater, and Coastal Systems through the adult education UF/IFAS Extension program to obtain her Master Naturalist certification in September of 2020. She completed the Land Steward and Restoration Courses to obtain her title as an Advanced Master Naturalist. In September of 2020, Alice enrolled in a course at Cornell Lab Bird Academy to obtain her certification in Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology, which she completed in October 2020. In January of 2021, Alice was hired for a part-time position with FWC as an Educational Specialist and in June of 2021 hired as Sponsored Project OPS for UF/IFAS in Hernando County. She is back writing for Hernando Sun and continues to publish photography and nature writing on her blog- FloridaNature.Net. Alice is married to Donald Herden Jr and resides in Weeki Wachee, Florida, with their two dogs, Bree and Willow.
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