New Rochelle Cheerleaders Have What it Takes – and They’re Bringing it to Florida

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The New Rochelle Cheerleading teams came out performing with electricity that could be felt throughout the High School. The New Rochelle Varsity, Junior Varsity and Modified Cheerleading squads are about to embark to the National High School Cheerleading Championship (NHSCC) in Florida. The NHSCC is the most prestigious cheerleading championship in the nation. The competition is held in Orlando Florida at the Walt Disney World resort. This is a nationally televised event and can be seen on ESPN and ESPN2. It reaches over 100 million homes in 32 countries every year. New Rochelle Cheerleaders are a force to be reckoned with delivering solid, skilled and bold routines. These teams live, sacrifice, dedicate themselves and work tirelessly to make their way to this competition every year. New Rochelle’s High School JV team ranked 2nd in the nation last year launching them to the top of approximately 30 teams from all over the country who were competing to be the nation’s best cheerleaders in their division. Over the last several years, New Rochelle Varsity has had over 10 top 5 finishes competing against 50-80 teams. Our own Modified team were national finalists last year at the competition ranking 7th in the country. This coming year they start as finalists and look forward to placing even higher. We need to recognize that what it takes to be a New Ro Cheerleader is perseverance, devotion, painstaking practice, loyalty, and skill. If you dream, New Ro Cheer dreams bigger.

The energy and enthusiasm in the gymnasium throughout Show Night is absolutely amazing. Family members, coaches, spectators, students, teammates and alumni all gather as New Rochelle High School brings together all New Rochelle Cheerleading teams including Ursuline School to showcase their spirited routines before heading off to Florida. As soon as the show began, the music was pumping and all of the teams entered the gym with tumbling passes and handsprings surrounded by the sounds of a cheering audience, wall to wall clapping and the ringing of cow bells. What a way to begin their journey to a championship competition! Graduating seniors on the Cheer teams were presented with flowers by members of the New Rochelle Varsity Alumni, many of which still wear their alumni shirts. Underscoring the tradition were Alumni members representing New Ro teams dating back to 1998. They are “Passing the torch to carry on the tradition of Excellence”. This hallmark of this tradition and reunion brings hope and inspiration to new Cheerleaders as they carry on the New Ro Cheerleader family name. A key factor to New Rochelle High School Cheerleader’s continued success at Nationals is the extraordinary coaching staff. Varsity coach Chrissy Stanionis and Assistant Coach Chelsi Wilson were both New Rochelle Cheerleaders, and have both been to Nationals with New Rochelle. Chrissy stated “The most enjoyment I feel being a coach is watching our team develop, achieving goals, learning skills and having no regrets. Varsity has high expectations and the girls don’t walk in like this, it takes hard work, team dynamics and closeness to get to where they are. They represent who they are and do an amazing job at it.” JV Coach and Assistant Coach Elaina Edwards and Dilmer Bonifacio cultivate the core values of positive motivation and attention to detail to help fuel their the drive to be the best. Both Elaina and Dilmer have been to Nationals and on the Cheer team for New Rochelle. When watching Elaina interact with her team, you were able to see how she was passing her knowledge onto her team having been in their shoes herself. She commented “These girls are a great group, they listen well, they bonded with one another beautifully, they work so hard and I am extremely proud of them.” Elaina also made special mention of a very instrumental Parent Coordinator and Treasurer, Donna Parente. “Donna’s had two daughters cheer with New Rochelle, her daughter Gianna is currently on my team. Donna has been an asset to this organization and has bent over backwards for New Ro Cheerleading since day one and I don’t know what I would have done without her”. Modified Coach Danielle LaBella and Assistant Coach Melissa Matta were also cheerleaders and are now coaches. They still continue to carry the spirit for their team instilling team values, skill development, and the foundation the girls need to be a reputable New Ro Cheerleader. Danielle said to me “It is unbelievably rewarding as a coach to see such a transformation in these girls from when they first join the team to when they head off to competition. It amazes us that not only do they meet your expectations at such a young age, but they exceed them. We couldn’t be more proud of our team”. Chelsi Wilson, Danielle LaBella and Melissa Matta were also All American for 4 years as well as scholar athletes during their journey with New Ro Cheerleading in years past.

Every girl on every New Rochelle Cheerleading squad meets the demands the sport requires to become a part of a successful team. Each team rigorously practices up to six months a year, some beginning with summer hours as early as August attending Cheer Camp in PA and continuing training throughout the school year. Practices are 3 days a week, and 1 additional day of tumbling as well as cheering Football games during the fall and Basketball games during the winter season. In their commitment to be the best, the New Rochelle Cheerleaders, along with their coaches, assistant coaches and tumbling coaches, practice between 4-5 days a week. You wouldn’t imagine but here’s a list of just a few of the things these girls are learning: back handsprings, tucks, round-off tucks, round-off back handsprings, libs, heel stretch, toe touches, round-off handspring tucks, preps, hitches, full ups, double fulls, rewinds, 360’s, layouts, basket tosses, partner stunts, pom-pom routines and the list goes on. What I am pointing out, is that these girls take this sport and this competition very seriously and deserve all the support they can get. When asked “What does competing in the Nationals mean to you?” Narissa Black, a JV Senior replied “It means everything. This is what we work for and we are so excited to go. I love my team”.

When I had a chance to talk with a few of the girls, one girl’s struggle to make it to the NHSCC stood out from the rest. Senior and Varsity Cheerleader Ashley Brennan (Nickname “Tiny”) was at practice back in October and was completing a tumbling run and landed on her knee dislocating her kneecap. This injury was devastating. Her Doctors were claiming she may not recover in time to make it to Nationals. Despite her injury, she was determined to make it and compete in Florida with her team. She persevered through months of physical therapy every day to re-strengthen her knee. Ashley recovered faster than Dr.’s could have imagined and beating all odds will proudly board a flight on Thursday to the NHSCC. “Cheering is my life” said Ashley. “It’s taught me not only to work hard, but how to work with others. I’ve pushed myself and overcome obstacles and see now that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to”
As hard as these teams work one of the most difficult dealings is picking themselves up as a team when they’re down. The Modified squad had to pull together as one this year losing 3 of their teammates, sadly one of them with a severe cheerleading injury. Cierra Serrara and Kayla Morrow spoke optimistically about how the alternates on the team were able to step up and fill the shoes of the girls they had lost. They both agreed that “We are only as weak as our weakest link” “We held it together, worked really hard and everyone participated to bring us to the competition and we are so proud and so happy.”
New Rochelle Cheerleaders have a slogan that reads: “Rely on it…, Sacrifice for it…Dedicate to it…New Ro Cheer”. Those words hold so true to so many people involved in cheering for our great city. These teams are inspiring, steadfast and we need to be immensely proud of all of them. My best wishes go out to all the teams and coaches participating in this amazing journey. You make New Rochelle proud to call you our own.

To see photos of the New Ro girls in action click here

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