By Vaughn Wilson
Less than 24 hours prior, the FAMU Cheerleaders were in Norfolk, Va., rooting on the Lady Rattler basketball team in the 2016 MEAC Basketball Tournament.
The next day, they were the center of attention at the Florida State Capitol in the State House. Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) invited members of the cheerleading squad for a special presentation on the House floor to recognize their triple win in the 2016 MEAC Cheerleading Championship.
The cheerleading squad was crowned MEAC Co-Ed Champion Squad, All-Star Champion and All-Around Champion for 2016. Sporting the hardware, and a representative group from the squad, coach Brandi Tatum and assistant coach Felicia Barnes were treated to a celebration of their championships.
“It’s unbelievable. I think the team went out there and gave it their all and left it all on the mats. I think to get to this place is what FAMU needed. It’s what this cheer program needed and we’re ready to begin a new year,” Tatum said.
Earning their way to the state capitol did not come without sacrifice. One key cheerleader was missing from the squad and the other performers dug in and decided to work that much harder. “During warmup, Evelyn Ross pulled a muscle. But, if you watch the video, she threw down her crutches and helped us win by completing the routine in excruciating pain,” Tatum said.
Williams, who contacted FAMU Athletics about bringing in the cheerleading champions for the final day of the 2016 session, presented the squad from the floor of the House.
“As I began to walk to the House floor for the last time, I began to think about where it all began for me. It was Florida A&M University. To be on the last day of my eighth year in the Florida Legislature, to make this my last comment as a state legislator, to recognize the Florida A&M University Cheerleaders, at the end of the day it’s appropriate. All of the Rattlers who are in the Florida House of Representatives: Mia Jones, Bobby Powell, Arthenia Joyner, Shevrin Jones, the FAMU senators and I are all cheerleaders for FAMU. And we believe that the pathway that got us here all started with the first brick being put down at FAMU. It’s very humbling to have this opportunity,” Williams said.
Courtni Smith, who was crowned MEAC All-Star (Individual) Champion, was overjoyed with the whole week of activities. “The experience was a nervous one. We had one of our main backspotters get hurt, so I was working hard for our squad, but also for my best friend. Coming back with the win was amazing….It was the cherry on top to finally get recognized for the hard work we put into this. People don’t realize the effort it takes to make a good performance. We sweat, we get hurt just like any other athlete. I’m just excited to get this level of recognition for something we’ve done,” she said.
Daren Williams, a member of the champion co-ed squad was equally as pleased with the week.
“This feels awesome. A lot of time and hard work was put into this routine and we went out there and did our thing. We performed very well. Even with our injuries, we pushed through and we’re winners. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I am happy that we were recognized for what we did.”