NOV. 3, 2022 — Midlakes High School captured the 2022 Class C Competitive Cheerleading championship by nearly two points after losing several members to graduation last year and welcoming a new varsity coach.
The squad finished first with a score of 65.75, and Midlakes' lone senior on the team, Natahliyah Soto-Patrick, received the Nancy Saxton Leadership Award during the October 29 championships at Gates-Chili High School.
"They called first (place) and we all just immediately stood up and started cheering,” Soto-Patrick said. "The emotion was so strong. It was just a great feeling all around."
She said the team started to believe it was in the mix for a sectional championship after a second-place showing at the Wayne-Finger Lakes League meet, which was held three days before the sectional championship.
"That's when we were like, Okay. This is real," she said. "We can actually do something."
Entering the season, other squads might have overlooked Midlakes, which featured four freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors, and Soto-Patrick.
"To be honest, I blacked out," said Tori Baker, Midlakes’ first-year head coach. "I heard the mmm for the first and I just dropped to my knees and all of them started sobbing. It couldn’t get any better. They hit a routine of a lifetime."
Despite its youth, Baker knew this season could be special if the team focused on getting better each time out. Baker, a 2017 Midlakes graduate, knows a thing or two about sectional titles after winning a crown under Laura Van Laeken about 10 years ago.
"I saw who Laura was and I saw how athletes looked up to her and I wanted to be that," Baker said. "I wanted to be a role model for all these kids."
Baker, who choreographed the championship routine, said the squad brought a unique chemistry to the mat that you don’t always see in scholastic sports.
"They are friends both on and off the mat,” she said. "All of those girls are very close, even in school, and I think that’s what brings them together in cheerleading."