- November 26, 2019
Today girls spring, cartwheel and flip across the forgiving floor of the Winter Park Cheer Athletics gym like they never have before.
The moves are the same ones that have placed the gym’s teams in UCA All Star Cheerleading national championships, but the space in which they’re doing them is totally different. Relocating to this new location in May, one mile north on Forsyth Road from their old one, has given the groups’ cheerleaders, owners and instructors something to cheer about: nearly three times more space.
More space, owner Candace Guilford says, means more programs the gym will be bringing to the Winter Park community starting now.
“In our old space we were maxed out,” Guilford said. “This space allows us to offer more teams and more staff.”
The new space offers 12,000 square feet for the gym’s six cheer teams and 10 instructional staff members to spread out. The fully air-conditioned gym includes two full floors, a 9-foot deep foam pit to practice moves into, and an in-floor trampoline for the cheerleaders to try out their tricks. Upstairs from the floors, the gym has also added an entire room dedicated to dance.
“It’s changed everything,” Guilford said. “We can do so much more now.”
The space also serves as the practice facility for not only the gym’s All Star cheer squads, the Winter Park Stars, but the cheerleaders for the Winter Park Pop Warner Tigers and the cheerleading Wildcats from Winter Park High School, which WPHS alumna Guilford coached until 2010. Her sister, Angela Austin, has been head cheer coach at the school since Guilford left to focus on her gym.
The gym, Guilford says, is open to anybody and everybody ages 3-18 regardless of school, skill set or body type, and offers girls and boys lessons in tumbling, dancing, flexibility, strength and showmanship. Her staff consists of present and past University of Central Florida cheerleaders, a former Magic dancer and a season four contestant on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“I’m so thankful for the [staff] that I have,” Guilford said, “because I think — actually I know — they’re the best.”
Winter Park Cheer Athletics’ new location is at 6870 Stapoint Court, in Winter Park. For more information on the gym’s programs, visit wpcheerathletics.com
Former Magic dancer and Winter Park Cheer instructor Robin McCormick says she’s excited to see the whole vision of the expansion come to fruition as programming kicks up as fall approaches. She’s particularly excited for the new dance room where she can get the cheerleaders grooving.
“It’s all just going to be so much better now in this new space,” she said.
Winter Park High School cheerleader Katie McClanahan said she’s already adopted the new gym as her home away from home, as she practices flips on the trampoline during open-gym hours.
“It’s a big, big difference in a good way,” she said.
Guilford, who started Winter Park Cheer Athletics in 2009, has her eyes set on growing more teams, reaching higher levels and winning more national championships to go along with the expansion. But she said her biggest hope for the new, larger space is to be able to bring cheerleading to more kids in the Winter Park community.
“The best part is I can provide more teams, which provides more boys and girls the ability to be able to cheer at this gym,” she said.