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Top Sports Stories 2018: Another banner year for Riverhead cheer

Since cheerleading became an officially sanctioned sport, Riverhead has emerged as one of the top teams in the county amid a field of talented teams. In 2018, which included the end of one season and the beginning of another, the Blue Waves continued that tradition.

In February, the Blue Waves competed at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship. The team advanced to the finals for the second straight year. The Blue Waves went on to place 14th in Small Varsity Division I. The team had performed well enough in their first routine to bypass the semifinals and advance straight to the finals.

The Blue Waves arrived back from Florida set to continue in the Section XI competitions with a goal of advancing to the state tournament for the first time. Riverhead competed at the Section XI Championships later that month, and found some adversity awaited.

In the week leading up to the competition, the Blue Waves were forced to refine 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,” Riverhead coach Stephanie Piraino had said.

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.

Not long after, Riverhead was already preparing for the 2018-19 season. And so far, in the new season, the Blue Waves have hit the mat running. The team won its first Section XI competition and has already qualified for the UCA Nationals once again.

Photo caption: Riverhead cheerleaders perform at the Section XI Championships. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)