TMA Cheerleaders Win Second State Title

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The Master’s Academy (TMA) has had wonderful results with our athletic programs, but in over 25 years, our school had never brought home a state title – until last year. The TMA Varsity Cheerleaders made school history last year by earning TMA’s first ever FHSAA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP and this year they did it again! Back to back state titles!

To qualify for State, TMA’s Varsity Cheer team traveled to Flagler Palm Coast High School to compete in the FHSAA Region 2 Competition at the beginning of Dec. TMA’s varsity team scored a 68.1 placing them behind Sun Lake (Land O Lakes) 68.3 score. 

The State Competition, held at Silver Spurs Arena in
Kissimmee, assembled dozens of talented squads whose hard work was showcased into a 2 minute and 30
second performance. Going into semi-finals TMA’s regional score (68.1) ranked them 7th out of 16. TMA would have to score in the top three during the state semi finals in order to advance into the finals…and they did! TMA battled Sun Lake and the three time 1A, Small Varsity State Champions, Bay High School. It would seem to be an unlikely chance that TMA or Sun Lake could overthrow Bay since Bay scored an 81.7 at their Regional competition just a few weeks earlier. Though the odds were not in TMA’s favor TMA proved victorious and overthrew Bay to earn the 1st place Small Varsity State Championship title. 

Although the team had prepared and worked for many months (even sacrificing their Christmas holiday) the team credits intangibles elements which led to TMA’s second state title. The squad believes it was their team unity, enthusiastic fan base and God's glory that separated TMA from the others. “We were not the most talented, we didn't have the most tumblers, or highest degree of difficulty but we had solid fundamentals, the support of the student body who that came out to cheer us on, but mostly we believe we had the favor of The Lord reigning down us. I'm most proud of how this team came into the arena not forgetting who brought them to this point. All year we kept reminding each other that we would rely on God’s power and draw on His power and His strength and His wisdom. Of course, we did our part and prepared physically every day.” says Coach Mandato. 

Just days before States, Mandato asked Olympic gold medalist, Scott Johnson, to speak to the team about handling the pressure and the expectations of winning twice. This was a pivotal turning point for the team as they geared up with a better plan of how to handle the fear of failure that seemed to be haunting the team. 

During the day of states, this team was often seen sitting together in the corners of arena playing their Big Daddy Weave worship song, “I am redeemed” and calling upon the Lord for their peace, confidence, strength and courage. When the team was announced as having won 1st place the girls pointed up (not showing #1) but pointing to the Lord. They boast in The Lord – the One who gives the talents not the talented. 

TMA beat the existing state champs, Bay High School by .4 “That .4 was our fans that came to help us and Gods amazing glory!” said Noelle Owen, junior who was on the team last year too. 

Every team endures their share of injuries and tribulations. This season TMA found them beginning the season with cheerleader, Kaite Lower, being diagnosed with suspicious thyroid nodules that led to a full thyroidectomy. Madeline Mandato (team mate and lifelong friend) experienced the same battle just 12 months prior. It was a remarkable experience to see one team member identifying and helping another go through and share such a unique medical hurdle. Mandato accompanied Lower to several of her doctor appointments while teammates took turns visiting Kaite in the hospital. This was the beginning of our season and already the team’s focus was on love, friendship and unity! Later in the season, while performing at a basketball game, Laura Tobin broke her finger executing a difficult pyramid element. With a broken finger Laura did not let her flyer fall- unity! This fracture took her out of the competition season for 5 weeks with States only 7 weeks away! Upon her return, the team had 2 weeks to get her back up to speed, for Laura is a crucial part of the competition team. In addition, the team also endured 3 sprained ankles; Nina DeBellis, Courtney Hoffman and Noelle Owen. Though this season had medical and injury challenges the team always exhibited tremendous unity and love for each other! 

The Master’s Academy (TMA), earned its school's two consecutive State
Championship which culminated a long journey and fulfilled a vision
set forth by head coach, Missy Mandato. Mandato became TMA’s head
coach for the 2011/2012 seasons and successfully led 20 hardworking
girls to win the 1A Medium Varsity State title. After winning last year, we knew we were going to have a tough time reassembling a strong team of 20 (16 compete on the floor but 20 are needed since Mandato believes in having 3-4 alternates). Tryouts in the spring looked dismal since losing 3 seniors and 6 more chose not to return. 10 girls returned to defend their title-not enough to even field a small varsity team. It was evident that TMA would not be able to compete in 2013 in the medium varsity division since only 16 cheerleaders tryout for the varsity team. Mandato picked up 6 girls who had never cheered on TMA’s varsity team. TMA was then forced to switch into the small varsity division, which requires 12 girls. After checking the archives of FHSAA Competitive cheerleading book of championship records only 3 teams held consecutive team championships, Bishop Moore, Dr. Phillips and Sebring but no team had ever won back-to-back titles after switching divisions. Coach Mandato recalls discussing the unfavorable odds with teammate Nina DeBellis and Debellis’ first response was, “Well coach, I guess we’ll just have to make history!” And they did! 

The victorious team consists of Lauren Stuart, Laura Tobin, Erin Boncore, Nina DeBellis, Courtney Hoffman, Olivia Kingsland, Rachel Woodruff, Kaite Lower, Noelle Owen, Lindsey Walton, McKennah Connett, Brianna Fessler, Amanda Duff, Leah Singleton and captains Savannah Stewart (Jr), Madeline Mandato (Jr), and Kat Deery (Jr). 

Congratulations to the varsity cheerleaders of The Master's
Academy, 2012-13 for bringing home the second state title!