Niceville’s Four-in-a-row state championship cheerleading squad was recognized in front of the Okaloosa County School Board on Monday evening. The team won in the Game Day category, which highlights traditional, football sideline-style cheerleading.
Niceville Cheer senior Brooke Ziemak, a four-year veteran of the team, made her way to the podium and told the school board, “We went into freshman year working so hard. And we won our first state championship and we constantly were coming back to practices just wanting to get better. And that’s what we kept doing. We kept getting better. We kept working.”
Niceville Principal Charlie Morello quoted the warrior-poet DJ Khaled: “All I do is win, win, win no matter what.” Morello added, “Those seniors have provided great leadership. The challenge also becomes them when you win one or two is to struggle against being complacent, right? It only takes walking through cheer practice seventh period, just one or two times to see [Coach Herndon] holding them accountable, holding that standard.”
Finally, School Board Member Diane Kelley added a little perspective about how far the sport of cheer has come. “Back in the dark ages young ladies, I was a cheerleader,” Kelley said with a laugh, “And then when I became a teacher, I sponsored cheerleaders and coached them. But that was back in the day when we wore saddle Oxfords and knee highs. And you would get quite a few today if you could see some of the things that we did and called it a cheer. So I have absolutely watched the evolution of cheering to what it’s become today, which is a true sport. And you have my utmost admiration for being the athletes that you are.
The Niceville Cheer team will be back in action in the Fall.
In addition to recognition for the High School Team, the Okaloosa County School Board
recognized the Middle School Cheer Team from Ruckel Middle School for winning the UCA Game Day National Championship at the same competition in Orlando.
“You can think about the successes, journeys, friendships – because when you are out of high school and college, you can keep this in the front of your mind,” said Superintendent Marcus Chambers to the team.
This is the second national title for the Ruckel Middle School Girls in two years.
“Good job girls,” said School Board Member Dr. Lamar White, “and thank you to the parents – it’s a lot of work for you, too.”
The team positively impacts the school as a whole – a serious benefit for school administration, according to First-year Ruckel Principal Joe Janazzo. “They are a huge role model for kids on campus, and for the fifth graders,” Janazzo said of the interaction between rising middle schoolers and the cheer team members. “They work even harder in the classroom.”