Coral Springs Charter Lady Panthers cheer their way to state finals

After placing second in the Florida High School Athletic Association state cheerleading finals last season, Coral Springs Charter School coach Emonii Word wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time around.

“Last year was really cool, but it was definitely a building year,” said the 24-year-old Word, who was a cheerleader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and then at Florida International University. “This year I knew the girls had potential and they could make it if they just worked hard.”

Last year’s runner-up finish by the Coral Springs Charter girls came in the Class 1A Small Non-Tumbling Division. That squad graduated six seniors, but that loss of experience didn’t seem to matter as this year’s team proved more than up to the challenge.

The Lady Panthers recently won their first FHSAA Region 4 title in the Small Non-Tumbling Division at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, and that feat earned them a berth in this year’s state finals.

“Last year we took second place at regionals and we wound up getting second at states, so this year we got first at regionals and we are hoping [to be first] at states,” said Word, who lives in Margate. “The girls are excited and they believe in themselves a little bit more this year.”

The returning girls’ achievements from last year’s regional and state competition has been a huge positive.

“They thought going into regionals this year that they could do it. Last year they just wanted to do well,” added Word, who said this year’s routine is more difficult.

Word hopes her squad can bring back the second state championship in school history when it travels to the Sun Dome on the campus of the University of South Florida this weekend (Jan. 29-30). The girls’ softball team won the Florida title last year.

“The girls feel that they are becoming respected, not only in the community but also in their school and among their peers,” Word said.” If we can bring that second state championship home for Charter that would be pretty cool.”

Word’s younger sister, Syida Word, is an 18-year-old senior at Coral Springs Charter. This is her second year on the cheerleading team.

“I know that if we hit our routine we can do well,” said Syida Word, who is a team captain along with teammate Olivia Mora. “Our routine is faster paced so it is more difficult, but our skills are also [better] than last year.”

Like all of her teammates, Syida Word couldn’t have been more pleased with this season’s regional championship.

“We were really excited because last year we got second place. We also beat our score from last year, so you could just tell that we were improving,” Syida Word said. “I hope we can win state. If we all try to [give it our best], I think we can do it.”

Mora said the team entered last year’s state competition not knowing what to expect, but this year they are in familiar territory.

“Last year we were happy taking second [at regional] and this year we were even happier taking first,” Mora said. “The biggest difference between this year and last year is the difficulty of our stunts and we are closer as a team.”

One of the youngest members of the team is eighth-grader Rebecca Goldstein, 14, of Coral Springs. This is her first year on the team and she is a flier.

“Winning the regionals was very exciting and I can’t wait for states,” Goldstein said. “I think we can win states because we have worked all season for it and we have been improving ourselves every time we compete.”

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