The Monroe Township High School Varsity Cheer team is preparing for their National Competition in Orlando, Florida on March 24 and 25, 2018. The team’s goal is to take home two titles: Grand Champion (highest score out of all the teams) and Division Champion (highest score in their division).
The varsity team is composed of 24 girls, ranging from freshmen to seniors. The division that a cheer team competes in is assessed by the team’s amount of girls and the skill level. The MTHS team competes under the all music, medium-large division.
The team is advised by coaches and teachers Erica Brown, Laura Sidler, Sarah Pramberger, and Rebecca Tessler. They are in charge of preparing the girls, creating their routine, and assessing their skills.
Nationals is the biggest and final competition. The goal for the season, which continues through July to March, is for the girls to take first in all competitions.
In order to keep up the team’s winning streak and fulfill their goal of an undefeated season, head coach Brown has the girls practicing every Tuesday from 4:15 to 6:30, every Thursday 4:00 to 6:00, some Fridays, and a competition on Saturdays or Sundays.
Freshman Rebecca Antonacci says, “The schedule is hard to keep up with and is a lot of work to manage, but we all have the same goal of winning and understand what it takes.”
At a typical practice, the cheerleaders start with warming up their basic skills and stretching. They will also do full-outs (running through the routine with all skills executed), run-throughs (marking the whole routine), and alternate between only tumbling or stunting full-outs for additional practice.
For the last 30 minutes to an hour, the team either focuses on tumbling skills or conditioning to keep everyone toned.
Coach Brown said, “For this point in the season, we know our routine and what we must do. Doing everything over, and over, and over until we hit it perfect is the tactic we are going with. Repetition is key.”
Christy Esandrio DEFYING GRAVITY: Senior Sydney Marinelli is airborne in layout at Sportika on Sunday, February 11, 2018. Running at home and working on tumbling skills at practice is designed to make the team’s tumbling level elite.
Another major factor the girls work on is their neatness and tight motions when on the mat. With cheerleading being scored out of 100 points, there are multiple things to which the team has to pay attention.
Sophomore Natalie Depalma said, “Keeping our hands by our sides when walking, motions strong, and skills on time is something we have been working on a lot since Nationals is so soon. The routine is filled with great and difficult skills, but if everyone is a hot mess on the mat, that will mean nothing and we will be scored low.”
The team is concerned about losing points to the ‘easy’ things, like being tight. In cheer, it can come down to a tenth of point difference between first and second, and the girls do not want to lose over a flimsy arm.
Another focal point is performing the routine with smiles and a positive attitude, regardless of how tired one may be.
Sophomore Gianna Arcaro said, “Even though we are only on the mat for two minutes and 30 seconds, I get so tired so quickly.… I get so out of breath I can’t even breathe, but have to make sure the judges can’t tell my stamina is down.”
It is easy for a team to lose points for not smiling and ‘selling’ their routine to the judges. It is crucial for girls to be upbeat and always look like they are not even a bit tired if they want to take first.
Junior Alexis Holland says, “Being happy and positive through the routine, no matter how tired or how much pain we are in, is huge for us. Being lively and selling the routine is something my team has been working on.… To keep everyone’s morale up when performing, I find that cheering my teammates on is a huge help. It’s always nice to hear someone rooting for you!”
With the season at its peak, everyone is doing their best to give it their all. Practices have gotten more serious since Nationals is approaching and everyone feels the strong desire to win.
“The routine has been set to win, all the difficulty is there, but the girls will just have to give it their all on the Nationals floor,” Coach Brown said. “I am confident that the girls can do it.”
What do you think will happen at Nationals this year?