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State cheerleading wrap: Big weekend for BCAA

BOCA RATON -- The first FHSAA State Cheerleading Championships are done, and to use the cliche that they "went off without a hitch," would be, well, a bit inaccurate.

Douglas coach Jessie Metzger and athletic director Dave Grad claimed a timing error -- one that they say wasn't their fault -- knocked them out of the finals, and Michael Blosser of the Universal Cheerleaders Association wouldn't listen to their calls to appeal the penalty, which cost the Eagles 25 crucial points in the final judges' tally.

More on the controversy in Sunday's Herald, but it was -- cliche alert No. 2 -- a small dark cloud over an otherwise sunny weekend at FAU Arena.

Though only one South Florida team, Miami's Dade Christian School, earned a trip to the finals Saturday (more on the Crusaders' ninth-place finish in Sunday's Dade-edition Herald, too), several Broward squads did well Friday.

Stranahan took second -- South Florida's highest finish -- in the non-tumbling division. Dillard took fifth in that category, while Deerfield Beach and Everglades tied for sixth and McArthur finished 10th. Flanagan took sixth in co-ed small, Coral Springs Christian sixth in all-girls small and Coral Glades ninth in all-girls extra-large.

And beyond the teams, it was a solid weekend overall for the Broward County Athletic Association.

No stranger to putting on cheerleading competitions -- its annual county-wide competition started back up in January at Dillard -- the BCAA worked closely with the FHSAA over the weekend in staging the state championship. While Blosser and the UCA worked with the FHSAA on the judging-and-scoring part of the event, the BCAA -- helped largely by Coral Springs athletic director Dianne Sanzari and Coral Springs cheer coach Denise Reed, both members of the BCAA cheer advisory committee -- worked the "behind-the-scenes" portion.

Despite hailing from one county south of FAU, Sanzari, Reed and other BCAA leaders gathered volunteers from throughout Broward -- everyone from principals to athletic directors to random students -- to take tickets, work the parking lots and perform various other tasks.

They also got an up-close look at another major cheerleading competition, which could go a long way toward helping Sanzari fulfill her vision of multiple regional competitions throughout Broward, each leading up to the yearly BCAA Championship and then, ultimately, state.

And it was, Reed said, "all about the kids" -- giving cheerleaders county- and state-wide an inexpensive and previously unavailable chance to get together, network with other cheerleaders and coaches, and, most of all, compete.

"If you weren't here," a glowing Reed said of all the Broward schools not represented, "you missed out on something really great."

Said an enthusiastic Sanzari: "It was a learning experience for all of us."

And that includes coaches.

"I took notes all day," Reed said.

--Patrick Dorsey