Sanford, now in her twelfth year at Shelton State, notes that few squads have been able to achieve a similar notoriety. “I’m only aware of one or possibly two other teams nationwide with a record like ours.”
Sanford’s own cheer coach and mentor, Myron Doan, led one of those winning teams. “To model my own work after his example is very special to me now.”
Sanford takes pride in the leadership skills she learned from Doan and mentors her own cheerleaders.
“These kids don’t come to Shelton State for the perks, they come for the program and knowing they will have to work hard. There is a lot to be learned in the discipline that cheer requires in both the sport and in life. I encourage that, and I think the accomplishments of these students say a lot about their character.”
The character of the cheerleaders is evident in part in the efforts it took to reach their goal. Throughout practices, cheering for the Shelton State Buccaneers, community involvement, and continuous fundraisers, they came together to represent the program in a way that honored those who came before them.
“If you’re in the cheer world, you know about Shelton State’s program and Coach Sanford,” said Gina Pagano, a freshman from Orange County, California. Pagano is not the only Shelton State cheerleader from outside Alabama. Other members of the 24-strong squad are from Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Georgia. “We just all wanted to come here to continue the streak and be the best.”
With a combined overall GPA of 3.2 and a female overall GPA of 3.7, academics is also important to this team. “We are in shape mentally as well as physically,” said Jimmy Valdez, a sophomore and second-year cheerleader originally from Douglasville, Georgia. “Coach Sanford also really stays on us academically to be our best.”
“She [Sanford] always says to ‘do it for yourself,” but we also do it for her,” said Pagano. “She tells us to be our best, and we are so proud that we are able to give her our best.”
The Shelton State Community College Cheerleaders earned the title of 2017 UCA Open Coed National Champions on Saturday, January 14 in Orlando, Florida. The win marks the tenth consecutive national title for the Shelton State Cheerleaders and coach Christa Grizzle Sanford.
The Shelton State Cheerleaders and Coach Sanford will be honored at an upcoming celebration. The time and date will be announced.