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After quick exit at Nationals, Riverhead cheerleaders focus on counties

Trips to Disney in early February have become a rite of passage for the Riverhead cheerleading team. The destination: The Universal Cheerleaders Association’s National High School Cheerleading Championships.

The Blue Waves qualified for this year’s championship in early December and it the set the stage for their performance late Friday in Small Varsity Division I. They had hopes of equaling or surpassing their finish from last year, when they advanced into the finals and finished 14th overall.

But it wasn’t meant to be this season.

The Blue Waves did not advance out of the preliminaries and their competition ended Friday night. The Blue Waves were among the last group to compete, hitting the mat after 9 p.m.

“Not the end we wished for or hoped for,” said coach Stephanie Piraino in a text message Saturday from Orlando.

Piraino said the cheerleaders were using the moment as a learning opportunity and were already preparing for the upcoming Section XI Championships. That meet is scheduled for Feb. 16 at Centereach High School and it’s where teams can earn a bid to the New York State Championships. The Blue Waves have not yet earned a trip to the state meet since the format began a few years ago.

“This morning they are up and practicing for counties and have made goals for a comeback with a vengeance for the 2019-20 season,” Piraino said.

The Blue Waves placed fourth in Small Division I at a Section XI competition Feb. 2 at Hauppauge High School. The Blue Waves have been top four at every Section XI competition this season after winning their first one back in early December. Smithtown West and Smithtown East have consistently been among the top teams in Riverhead’s division this season.

At the UCA Nationals Friday, Shoreham-Wading River also competed in Small Varsity Division II. The Wildcats also did not advance past the preliminaries.

Photo caption: The Riverhead cheerleaders in Disney. (Courtesy photo)