Months of training and competitions had prepared the Riverhead cheerleading team for Saturday’s Section XI Championships. Over and over they practiced the 2 minute 30 second routine so that each of the 12 girls’ role became second nature.
But in any sport, unexpected obstacles can appear at any time. Cheerleading is no exception.
The Blue Waves spent the past week leading up to Saturday’s championships revamping and refining their routine after one of the team’s seniors and captain, Chelsea Cawley, suffered a knee injury that kept her out of the competition.
“We had people in positions that they had never been in before,” said Riverhead coach Stephanie Piraino.
The Blue Waves took the adversity in stride, and positioned girls so that they didn’t have to downgrade their routine to open the possibility of scoring fewer points. Competing in Division I small at West Islip High School, the Blue Waves performed “a solid routine,” Piraino said, but it wasn’t enough to finish in the top five.
Longwood finished in first out of nine teams, followed by Hauppauge and Walt Whitman.
“We’re proud of their performance,” Piraino said, noting that the team had placed first in sectional competitions to go along with a second, fourth and fifth-place finishes that qualified the Blue Waves for the county meet.
The competition marked the third county championships since cheerleading became a sanctioned sport. Babylon won its third straight county title in Division II small.
Piraino said two stunt groups had to change in the routine due to the injury and the Blue Waves had merely four days to get it done.
“It was something we had practiced for like nine months,” she said.
The girls accepted the challenge, she said, and were confident going into Saturday’s routine.
“They wanted to finish the way they started,” she said.
It’s been a banner year for the Blue Waves, who recently finished 14th in their division at the Universal Cheerleaders Association High School National Championships in Orlando, Fla. They won two UCA regionals leading up to nationals.
The Blue Waves will lose only four seniors — Cawley, Melissa Blackmore-Wigley, Keeley Lynch and Izabela Radziwonski.
“Our seniors were great leaders this year,” Piraino said.
After about two weeks off, the girls will be right back on the mat preparing for next season.
Photo caption: The Riverhead cheerleading team performs Saturday at West Islip High School. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)