Florida Christian’s cheer squad saved its best for last Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, it wasn’t enough to derail Bishop Moore’s juggernaut to a sixth consecutive state title. But a runner-up finish in the Class 1A Large Varsity was the best in school history, earning plenty of smiles regardless.
“No matter the outcome, they did the job that we gave them to do,” FCS assistant Danny Hernandez said.
Runner-up was a bittersweet outcome, though, for a St. Brendan squad that stayed an extra night only to find themselves knocked down a peg when Fort Walton Beach finally arrived in town from the icy roads of the Florida Panhandle.
Never miss a local story.
Fort Walton Beach won the Class 1A Extra Large division for its third state title, though the judging left some questions.
“It’s a tough loss,” said St. Brendan coach Arlenee Suarez, whose girls got permission to bypass Senior Night activities to see if they could stay atop the standings. Instead, they were runners-up for the second year in a row.
Fort Walton Beach competed the past three years in the 1A Small Coed division, winning two state crowns and placing second last year, but fielded a girls’ only squad this season.
Stoneman Douglas was the only other South Florida squad to reach Friday night’s finals, placing third in the Class 2A Small competition. Oviedo captured its first state title after four runner-up finishes in the past five years, ending Orlando Dr. Phillips’ five-year championship streak.
“We are by far in the hardest division,” said Eagles coach Sarah Rizzo, who brought a young squad featuring just one senior. “So to come out here and make it into finals is amazing. That’s like a win to us.”
Florida Christian also was thrilled with its first finals berth, coming in its fifth trip to the state competition. The Patriots were the first to take the floor Friday morning, enduring an hour’s wait to learn they’d booked a slot on the evening lineup and seven more hours to perform again.
But despite a few bobbles, there were no major mistakes.
“At this point, we just wanted them to hit their routine,” coach Alicia Rivera said. “Whatever happens after that, happens.”
It simply couldn’t hold up against Bishop Moore’ score of 91.40 — just the sixth time anyone had topped the 90-point mark in the finals since the current scoring system went into effect three years ago.
St. Brendan wound up just two points behind Fort Walton Beach’s mark of 88.50, but Suarez was left lamenting inconsistencies from one set of judges Thursday night to another group Friday. Fort Walton Beach endured two falls Friday night, whereas the Sabres stayed upright.
“I think them competing the second day made a big difference in not seeing the whole division,” Suarez said.