Bay Cheerleading squad returns home with National Championship trophy, gets quite the homecoming

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -The Bay High School cheerleading squad is back home, back home with a National Championship trophy. And it was quite the homecoming for the 14 cheerleaders and their coaches Monday afternoon at Tommy Oliver Stadium. The team was greeted with a police escort at the Panama City line, and that escort even included a police helicopter. A fire engine rained down water on the team bus as it made its final turn into the stadium parking lot, where hundreds of fellow students, parents and boosters were cheering the team’s return. Coach Savannah Tillman and her team of 14 cheerleaders, winning the U-C-A National High School Cheerleading Championship at the Disney facility in Kissimmee over the weekend. This a process that started a year ago, with the team making it through regional competitions, with as many as 600 teams originally in their Small Varsity, Non-Tumbling, Game Day-Division A select few, just six made it to Nationals which began late last week. Bay, after finishing third three years and 6th last year, won it all this time around, with the final competition coming Sunday morning. The Tornadoes spent Sunday night in Orlando, before getting on the bus and heading home. The team received a police escort once inside the city limits, and that included a helicopter overhead. a few hundred students, parents on hand to help them celebrate the culmination of so much time, energy and effort!

Well some weeks, five days a week.” Bay head coach Savannah Tillman told us shortly after getting off the bus. “Morning practices, afternoon practices, it’s been the longest season ever. Normally nationals is in February, so our season kind of ends in February. But now it’s end of April and we haven’t stopped since last spring”

“We’ve had a lot of 7 AM practices, so you have to wake up early, get ready for practice, go to practice early.” said senior cheerleader Ane Chancellor “And then go to school after that. That was kind of a struggle, it was tiring but it was all worth it.”

“Being able to come home as a national champion means so much to me.” said Sydney Gay, another senior cheerleader. “And to the team. It just brings so much emotion, being able to say that you are a national champion. It just brings so much emotion, being able to say that you are a national champion. Home from the school bringing it home for the school, the county, it’s just an overwhelming feeling”

For most of these girls, it’s been an extra long season, and realizing this dream, well it goes well beyond one year of work!

“Well I’ve been on the team, varsity, for four years.” senior Camryn Commander told us. “And the competition team. And the amount of work and practice that we put in is just crazy. From the 7 a.m. practices before school. And the two-a-days where we had practice right after school too. This team has truly put in so much work. We deserve all of this because we’ve just been through so much with COVID and the hurricane.”

“They are just the most resilient group of girls that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” said coach Tillman. “No matter what they’ve been faced with, whether it be a hurricane, a pandemic, things going on in their personal lives, school stress, no matter what, they pushed through. And it’s all coming to fruition now, all their hard work.”

As for the police escort, and the large crowd waiting for the team upon its return, well that’s something the members of the team say they will never forget.

“We were all like yelling.” says senior Camryn Cool. “We saw the helicopter, we were like ‘oh my gosh it’s a helicopter’. And we saw the police cars, and every single time a new one got in front of us, we were like, ‘oh my God, it’s real!’ And I don’t think it really hit anyone until we saw the helicopter and all the cop cars that we actually won nationals.”

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