Cheerleading: San Benito duo headed to Florida

Brooke Shaffer and Sydney Starke will perform in the Varsity Spirit Spectacular at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. from Dec. 1 to 4.

San Benito High seniors Brooke Shaffer and Sydney Starke will realize a dream when they perform in the second Varsity Spirit Spectacular at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. from Dec. 1 to 4.

Shaffer and Starke, who are varsity cheer captains at San Benito, are two of the more than 800 high school cheerleaders and dancers from across the country who will take part in the pre-parade performance.

“It is probably No. 1 (on my list of cheerleading accomplishments),” Starke said. “I know a lot of girls when they were younger who went to cheer in Florida. But I never got to experience it. I think it’ll be cool meeting girls from other states and share in this new experience with them.”

Shaffer expressed similar sentiments in regards to the event, noting her sister had an opportunity to go to the New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“It’s going to be really exciting when we’re actually there,” Shaffer said. “To be able to meet new people and share in an experience not everyone gets to has will be a real special thing. I’m sure we’ll have this adrenaline rush once we’re performing in the parade.”

Once in Orlando, Shaffer and Starke will learn a two-minute routine before being put into groups that will practice until the day of their performance on Dec. 2.

“I remember talking to our captain last year, and she said it was one of the best experiences of her life,” Starke said.

In order to be eligible to cheer in the Varsity Spirit Spectacular, Shaffer and Starke had to perform at a Varsity Spirit summer camp hosted by Universal Cheerleaders Association last June. The Varsity Spirit organization made up a cheer and dance routine from which Shaffer and Starke had three days to perfect it.

They performed the routine in front of judges before learning if they had been chosen to perform either at Walt Disney World or in London. Shaffer and Starke said they’re both grateful to be the San Benito cheer captains because of their teammates’ work ethic, dedication and passion for the sport.

“This is honestly one of the best varsity cheer teams we’ve had throughout football season,” Starke said. “Our performances have been really great because we’ve been working together really well. We like to think of our squad as more of a family. I don’t think I’ve been on a team that has such a close bond.”

Shaffer credited Balers coach Lauren Franco for providing encouragement and motivation, which nurtures a great environment for the girls to develop and improve their skills.

“She’s given us this opportunity and pushed us since freshman year,” Shaffer said. “She wants us to be the best and has been guiding us on this journey. I’m really thankful we have this opportunity, and Lauren is a big part of this.”

Shaffer and Starke realize what a loving family has meant to their growth in the sport and life in general.

“I want to thank my mom (Kim),” Starke said. “She’s a single mom with four kids, and she’s been there to support me the entire way. I couldn’t have done this without her.”

Shaffer credited her parents, Lynn and Doug, for helping her in a variety of ways. Doug will be on the same flight with his daughter and Sydney to Florida, a trip they won’t soon forget.

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