VALRICO — The event hasn't been around long, but so far, Bloomingdale High School owns the competitive cheerleading state championship.
Bloomingdale won its second straight title last weekend in Tallahassee to remain the state's best in cheerleading, which became officially recognized as a prep sport in Florida before the 2008 season.
"It was a great privilege and honor," said Bloomingdale coach Tracy DiPrima, whose Bulls took first place in the large varsity division. "Defending a title always puts a little more pressure on you, but they rose to the challenge."
Bloomingdale's 20-girl squad, led by captains Jessi Briggs, Chelsea Campbell, Jessa Robles and Caitlin Thomas, started working on its routine in October as the football team's first winning season was winding down.
Cheering for a playoff-bound football team, DiPrima said, made it more enjoyable for the squad going into the competitive season.
"They had so much more fun with it this year," she said.
Riverview and Newsome also reached the finals at the state championship, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
"I was very proud that we had three teams represented from our area," DiPrima said. "The girls were all cheering each other on."
The state competition gave Bloomingdale and Riverview a taste of redemption after both schools suffered hefty penalties at last month's Hillsborough County Western Conference championship.
The Bulls were docked 25 points and fell to fifth place at the competition when a cheerleader stepped out of bounds. Riverview was in position to win the contest, but was disqualified because of an illegal grip.
"My girls were pretty distraught after Western Conference," Riverview coach Andrea Sowders said. "But they worked really hard, and we are very proud of them for coming in fourth at state."
Kevin Smetana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2439.