It’s the high school cheerleading version of a rags to riches story.
Numbers for the Shoreham-Wading River cheerleading team had dropped so low last season that the Wildcats forfeited their 2017-18 season.
Look at how SWR finished the 2018-19 season:
The Wildcats stepped up the difficulty in their routine Saturday in the Section XI Championships at Centereach High School and took fourth place in Small Varsity Division II.
“It’s like our Cinderella story,” said coach Brie Carlen, who was absolutely delighted with the result. “We literally came from nothing and got so far.”
That’s quite a jump for an underdog team that had only three cheerleaders with previous experience — captains Olivia Daleo, Kylee Fischer and Gianna Tambasco.
“That’s what we’re kind of being known right now, as Suffolk’s underdogs for cheerleading because we’re a team of brand-new athletes,” Carlen said. “It was huge for us.”
Hauppauge was first with Sayville and Comsewogue taking the next two places.
Carlen, a former SWR student in her 12th year of coaching, took over the Wildcats this season and tried to instill a more competitive mindset. The team began practicing in the middle of July in a middle school’s back gym. “There was so much we had to accomplish in so little time,” she said.
It didn’t help that SWR hasn’t had a junior varsity or middle school team before a middle school team was created this past fall.
Nonetheless, SWR placed in the top five in every Suffolk County meet and twice reached the top three in meets at Sachem North and Newfield.
SWR received a bid to the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship that was held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla. The Wildcats increased their score by 20.6 from the last time they competed in the national meet a couple of years ago.
“It was an incredible season and our success just speaks for itself,” Carlen said. “Honestly, we don’t have a lot of the difficulty that a lot of these other teams have, but they execute very well. They invested so much in this team that they didn’t let anything slow them down. I wasn’t expecting to do as well as we did. Our goal every week was to do better than we did the week before … They were one of the few teams not to drop a single stunt all season.”
For the Section XI Championships, the Wildcats raised their game, so to speak, and stressed their cheer, which accounts for a third of the score. It was a risk-reward thing.
“We figured we had nothing to lose,” Carlen said. “Why not go for it and take the risk?”
SWR was assessed no deductions, and the Wildcats were ecstatic.
“They just performed their hearts out, hit their routine,” Carlen said. “They were in tears. They were just grateful to even be there. I don’t think they expected to be there. It was just like all that hard work made that moment.”
None of SWR’s 14 cheerleaders are seniors. That puts SWR in a good position for next season.
“The girls are already asking if they could start offseason practices … so we’re going to start off next week,” Carlen said. “We’re going to go to Long Island Cheer [in Ronkonkoma] and they’re going to tumble.”
Photo caption: The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats were delighted with their fourth-place finish in Small Varsity Division II at the Section XI Championships on Saturday in Centereach. (Credit: Courtesy of Brie Carlen)