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Central cheerleaders are camp champions

Because of its superior rating, the varsity squad has been invited to participate in Citrus Bowl festivities.

Despite having five freshmen and just two seniors on the varsity squad, Central High's cheerleaders were honored as grand champions at the Universal Cheerleading Association's summer camp at the University of South Florida last week.

"They did really well, and we all had a very good time," said first-year coach Sandy Henderson, who coached Central's junior varsity team for four years before taking over the varsity squad this spring. "The kids were really motivated, and it was a lot of fun and a lot of dedication."

Central's varsity squad, which consists of 15 girls and three boys, received two superior ribbons _ the highest honor available _ for their "cheer and stunt" routine, and one superior and one excellent rating for their "extreme" routine. The team, which began practicing two weeks before the camp, also was honored with the UCA Leadership Award.

The team's two seniors, Jenn Polk and Melinda Twyman, were named to the UCA all-star team along with juniors Stephanie Doyle and Jason Snyder. Those four are eligible to participate in cheerleading events in London, England, next year if they can raise enough money to cover the cost of $2,400 each.

Because of their superior rating, the varsity cheerleaders have been invited to participate in Citrus Bowl festivities in Orlando in December. Henderson said she wasn't sure if the team would be able to raise enough money to cover the $800-per-person cost, which includes tickets to many of the local amusement parks.

Central's 17-member junior varsity team also fared well at the camp, earning one superior and one excellent rating in both the "cheer and stunt" and the "extreme" routines. The squad placed fourth in the "extreme," and four cheerleaders were named to the UCA all-star team: sophomores Jessica Via and Leah Andrews, junior Brittany Schultz and freshman Caitlin Zobel.

The camp included 28 high school squads from across the state and ran from Wednesday through Saturday. Practices ran from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. each day with one-hour breaks for lunch and dinner. The varsity's winning 3-minute routine was set to Prince's 1999, and the cheerleaders also had instructional safety sessions on spotting, catching and falling properly.

The cheerleaders get this week off from practice before starting up again when school begins on Aug. 18. They make their season debut when Central's football team plays host to St. Petersburg Catholic in a preseason game on Aug. 27.

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