Lakeland’s cheer team shows great strides ahead of state regional; county teams also stand out

About two months into the cheer season, Lakeland head cheer coach Crystal Abdon knew her team needed to tie up some loose ends at the Polk County Cheerleading Invitational headed to the region and eventually the state.

Last year Lakeland won a state title in the Class 2A Large Non-Tumbling division and graduated nine seniors; the Dreadnaughts with those seniors won four consecutive state titles. This year it’s a new roster that includes 34 student-athletes — a young team overall — that’s the largest in the county.

And because of the amount of cheering athletes on the team, Lakeland couldn’t compete against any other team because no other team in the county has that many student-athletes. So while it’s a tall order Wednesday to evaluate the cheer team against other competitions at George Jenkins High School, Abdon said his team has improved incrementally ahead of regionals and state: Two competitions Lakeland will have the opportunity to compete against other teams.

Lakeland is led by elders Destinee Grimes and Rorie Aycock. Both Grimes and Aycock lead by example in the rehearsal room and on the carpet. Both are in most routines in all areas including pyramiding, stunts and cheering.

“Overall, I was impressed with their performance. They seem to get better every week,” said Abdon. “We’re in a weekly competition now, so tonight we felt like we’d made more progress than last time out.”

Lakeland did well in the execution of his stunts, as well as the overall energy of the routines.

“I think from where we started at the start of the season to where we are now, we’ve come a long way,” Abdon said.

However, Abdon said it’s all about consistency. Even if the entire team has acquired the skills to compete at a high level, it will take a consistent pattern of execution down the long hall to emerge victorious.

Specifically, Abdon noted that Dreadnaughts need to ramp up their starting stunts: the hand-to-hand skill and the ½ up. The tenth-year coach said these skills can be honed in practice.

The first real competition to see if the practice pays off will be against five-time national champion Bartow, which is scheduled for next Friday at Lakeland High School. The squad will then have a break lasting until Christmas before preparing in early January for more action.

“Our word is focused. We’re trying to make sure they’re focused in the practice room, focused on the details, so that when we go out on the mat and compete, the focus is there,” Abdon said.

George Jenkins Junior Varsity: first place; Score: 63.9

Winter Haven Junior Varsity: First place: 61.5

Lakeland Junior Varsity: Runner-up: 54

Bartow JV Large Co-ed: First place: 66.4

Ridgeview Global Studies Academy JV: First Place: 65.9

Lakeland High School Extra Large Non-Tumbling Varsity: First place: 82.2

Lake Wales Varsity Medium Non-rolling: First: 75.2

Auburndale Varsity Medium Non-Rolling: Second: 72.4

George Jenkins non-rolling middle: third: 66.4

Lakeland Gibson Large Non-Tumbling Varsity: Primo: 68.3

Davenport Varsity Medium Co-ed: Second: 42.5

Winter Haven Medium Co-ed Varsity: First: 68

Bartow Large Co-ed Varsity: First: 83.9

Ridge Community large Co-ed: Second: 56.2

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