By Martie Thompson
At the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Fla., on Jan. 22 – 23, the Bartram Trail High School cheer team earned a rare achievement: a second FHSAA state championship in as many years. State championships are not completely foreign to the Bears, though — this was the team’s fifth. But according to varsity cheer head coach Danielle Parker, this year’s team only included five members from last year’s state championship team.
“This really didn’t come easy,” Parker said. “Not only with COVID, but last year we graduated 14 seniors. Everyone worked really hard and I think this speaks to the strength of our program.”
As a high schooler, Parker cheered at Bartram Trail herself and became the varsity head coach in 2012. This year’s victory joins previous titles in 2008, 2015, 2017, and 2020.
Parker said this year’s season started with tryouts in June 2020, which yielded 19 girls on the competition team; however, due to a variety of COVID-related quarantines, those 19 never competed in a single competition as a team.
“It was a very challenging season,” Parker said. “Every season brings challenges, but this one brought extra.”
In December, Bartram Trail finished fourth at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) regionals, which qualified them for the organization’s national competition. Normally, Parker said nationals would be held in February, but were pushed back this year to April, so the team will extend its season to participate.
Concurrently, the team participates in Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) events and in early January placed second at regionals in Tampa, losing out to first place finisher Hagerty High School. This qualified BTHS for the state competition, where they beat their rival Hagerty for the team’s second consecutive state crown.
According to Parker, the team practiced three mornings and two afternoons a week leading up to the regional and state competitions. The seventh period cheer class at school provided extra reps. Impressively, the team won the championship with only having parts of the team practice at a time, again due to COVID restrictions and quarantines.
“We rarely had the whole team together. I think it speaks to the girls’ level of talent and athleticism to make it all work,” Parker said.
Parker said the team was especially pleased to win the second state championship in a row, after coming close in previous years.
“It really does feel good,” she said, “especially with all the ups and downs of the season. The girls were able to push through and rise to the challenge. They took what they could control out of many things they couldn’t control — and put an amazing routine on the mat.”
Photo courtesy Danielle Parker
The BT cheer team is once again state champion.