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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Cheerleading: Sunlake's Garcia has record of success

LAND O' LAKES - For Sunlake High School cheerleading coach Pennye Garcia, it's more than just a family affair. Garcia has coached two daughters and her assistant coaches, Ann Priest and Nicky Newman, and over the past 18 years she has coached hundreds of girls, many of whom have continued cheering in college. One former member, Taylor Mock, is currently a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader Her longevity gives Garcia, 55, an ample amount of knowledge, experience and wisdom to know what works. It also has allowed her the opportunity to coach younger family members of former cheerleaders. Mallory Mock, for example, is the younger sister of Taylor. Rylee Fitzsimmons is the niece of 2001 graduate Heather Cunningham. Often, when Garcia coaches the younger athlete, she reminisces about the elder sister, cousin or aunt who cheered in the past.
"When I was watching Rylee at camp, several little facial expressions remind me of Heather," Garcia said. If there is any doubt of her coaching success, the wall-to-wall trophies, medals and plaques speak for themselves. But Garcia doesn't rely on past laurels. Her current varsity squad includes six All-Americans: Skye Nichols, Emily Lenhart, Amanda Slozer, Christina Riccio, Alyssa White and Joy Wenndlund. Junior varsity members Jessica Rogofsky and Mimi Berberich were also given All-American recognition. Garcia instills a high level of expectations in the team members and it shows the moment they walk into the gym, including Wednesday when their hard work paid off, as both the varsity and junior varsity teams finished second at a USF competition. The varsity also received a Superior Effort trophy and the Banana Award, which is given to the squad with the most spirit. With school about to begin, Garcia exhibits the enthusiasm of a first-year coach. Stunts are repeated until executed with precision. She tells the team she can live with mistakes, but can't tolerate giving a half-hearted effort. "We all learn from our mistakes and it is what we do with them that will make us even stronger," Garcia said. Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ReporterCliff.
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