By Maargaret Waage
The Southington High School cheerleading team finished its season on a positive note. On Saturday, March 8, the SHS team competed and placed third overall in the co-ed division during the Connecticut Association of Schools Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) State Cheer tournament held at Floyd Little Athletic Center, New Haven.
As the second runner up in division of 17 teams, SHS went on to represent both Southington and Connecticut at the Annual New England Regional Cheerleading Competition in Lawrence, Massachusetts On Saturday March 16.
“This is a proud moment for our team,” said Heather M. Allenback, head cheerleading coach. “It’s the first time in the entire history of the program that we’ve placed this far. The state championship has been held for 18 plus years.”
The team is co-ed and made up of twenty-one girls and one boy. Everyone who signs onto a varsity team has commitment in their DNA. The team spends a lot of time together throughout the school year, stating with tryouts in spring followed by summer camp where practices get underway.
Once school is in session the cheerleading team is required to attend practice four times per week with each session lasting up to three hours. Cheerleaders accompany the SHS football and home basketball game schedule throughout the year. Overall they’re together for ten months.
The students are expected to maintain academic passing grades as a requirement to team member status.
“We were happy to have the opportunity to compete. It’s an experience we worked hard for,” said Allenback. “We were in the running against a tough division. We placed 8th with a final score of 144 in the coed division. Pinkerton Academy of New Hampshire took the win with a final score of 199.2.
“Cheering has been an extension of gymnastics for me,” said cheerleader Rylee Gothberb. “There’s been a group of friends that shared a love of the sport. We have a great time cheering and wound up following it through high school,” Gothberb said.
Kaycee Belanger is a flyer on the team. “At first it was hard to trust the people who were supposed to catch me. Practicing helps to build the trust and to get better at the technique and moves we do in sync together,” Belanger said.
Cheerleading is a skill set each member works at individually and in conjunction with the team over time the coach explained. “The athletic component, combined with aerobic and dance moves make up the routine,” Allenback emphasized.
Alicia Savaria said she learned early on to do homework in advance of practice, because keeping that schedule allowed her to manage her time, which is a necessity. Mikayla Mueller said cheerleading interested her because it incorporates a lot of dance, gymnastics and great cardio exercise.
While the season is over for the sport, the team is anticipating an awards banquet dinner scheduled in April.