Coral Springs High School senior cheerleader Ashley Oliver couldn’t have asked for a better finish to the season.
Oliver, one of three captains and a flier on the Colts’ cheerleading squad, said the girls pushed harder this year because they wanted to win again. Oliver injured her ankle last year prior to regionals and she had to work through the pain. This year she was injury free.
“[Last year] was horrible,” said Oliver, who lives in Coral Springs. “My ankle was taped all the way to my shin and it was purple. This year was so much better because I was a captain and able to help my team earn a state championship.”
Coral Springs High School built the highest point total (81.28) in any division to secure the Class 2A Small Non-Tumbling Division title for a second consecutive year. Coral Glades High School, also located in Coral Springs, was fourth in the same division.
The back-to-back state-title accomplishment was yet another bright spot in a season where, back in December, the squad successfully qualified for the National High School Cheerleading Championships at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. There, they wound up in fifth place among a field of 30 teams in their division.
“It has all been amazing coming from a team that didn’t place well in state competitions [over the years] but which has now won in back-to-back seasons and was fifth at nationals,” Oliver said. “It is such a great feeling to know that last year wasn’t luck.”
The other captains, Samantha Brown (Coral Springs) and Demi Bakatselos (Coconut Creek), were equally impressed by the team’s successful defense of its state title. Like Oliver, these captains are four-year members of the squad.
“We started working harder and we pushed each other more,” Brown said. “The experience overall of going back-to-back and doing it with these girls is just great. I have cheered since I was 2 years old, so I am going to miss the whole thing.”
“They are all my best friends,” Bakatselos said of her teammates. “We knew that going to nationals was going to be, [but] being a first year program and finishing fifth at nationals is almost unheard of. It was pretty awesome.”
Third-year coach Annette Goldstein has had her team go from finishing in 11th place at states in her first year to taking back-to-back championships. Goldstein has decided to take on a lesser role with the team for the 2016-’17 season.
“I gave myself the title of spirit coordinator,” said Goldstein, who has turned over the reigns to assistants Lauren Ziegler and Rob Robinson. Sharleen Morgan also assisted the team this past year.
“Just winning the first time was a crazy Cinderella story, and for it to happen twice is amazing,” Goldstein said.
Ziegler, a third-grade teacher at Parkside Elementary School, is looking forward to the challenge of trying to win a third straight title.
“There is a lot of pressure,” said Ziegler, whose team graduates seven seniors. “Hopefully we can continue to lead this team to be as successful as it is. The girls got a taste of it last year and they wanted it again this year.”
Robinson, who graduated from Coral Springs High School in 2012, was a wrestler and pole-vaulter for the Colts in addition to being a member of the cheerleading squad that finished 10th in the Large Coed Division his senior year.
“It is amazing to graduate from this school and then to help the school win two states titles as a coach,” Robinson said. “This year they had the talent and the drive to want to win another one.”
Other local teams that fared well at the state competition included Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (5th place/Small Coed division), Monarch High School (4th place/Large Varsity Division) and Coral Springs Charter School (2nd place/Small Non-Tumbling Division).