Cheerleading: Countdown ends in tears for SWR seniors

The unofficial countdown to the end of the Shoreham-Wading River cheerleading team’s season — and the high school careers of its five seniors — began a week earlier. With each practice, the seniors took note of their dwindling remaining days in a Shoreham uniform. Every day was a step closer to the end, the day the Wildcats had been dreading.

That countdown reached zero Saturday.

After the top three teams in Small Division 2 were announced at the Section XI Championships, the fourth-place Wildcats stood up to applaud their competitors. That’s when it dawned on them: Their season had just ended.

Tears began to fall and hugging commenced.

“Knowing that it’s our last one, it’s hitting us,” senior main base Cataleena Trimingham said after the competition at Smithtown East High School. “It didn’t really hit me until today. They were all crying last night and I was like, ‘I’m fine. I don’t know what’s going on with you guys.’ As soon as everyone stood up and we were clapping for them, I was like, ‘Wow, this is the last time I’m going to be here,’ and I started bawling. It was sad. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t realize it was coming that soon, that it was going to hit me like that.”

The Wildcats weren’t shedding tears over their performance. Quite the contrary, they were happy with how they did. What saddened them was having to say goodbye.

“We’ve all been on this team for two years — and all the same girls, except for a few that quit,” senior main base Madison Borkowski said. “We’ve had such a strong bond … We’ve literally been through it all together, made history together.”

SWR forfeit its 2017-18 season because it didn’t have enough cheerleaders. Brie Carlen took over as coach of the team last season and things started moving in the right direction. SWR had never won or finished as high as second place at a Section XI competition — until this season. The Wildcats won a competition at Smithtown West and took second on three occasions this season.

Last weekend SWR competed in the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla. “We placed our highest score we’ve ever placed in the nationals level last weekend,” Carlen said. “We were just a point shy of making it onto the next round. That’s the closest that we’ve ever been, so the program’s definitely building.”

Senior back spotter Olivia Daleo said, “I never thought that this program would be what it is today.”

On Saturday, SWR turned in the most difficult routine it had ever executed, said Carlen. With that came risk, of course, but as the saying goes, no risk, no reward.

“It is [risky], but we decided, let’s just take the risk, why not?” Carlen said. “We’re already coming in here as top five in the county, so we might as well go for it. What have we got to lose?”

The Wildcats had spent the past week working on new routine. “We changed our partner stunts in the opening and we added another stunt after our tumbling passes,” said Carlen.

The result?

“We hit an amazing end pyramid,” Trimingham said. “I think it was honestly the best we’ve ever done all year.”

SWR finished fourth for a second straight year, behind first-place Babylon, second-place Sayville and third-place Hampton Bays, which had only six cheerleaders.

SWR was the first of the Small Division 2 teams to take the blue mat. The Wildcats did their thing, and then there was a lot of waiting. That gave seniors Rose Marie Minneci, Borkowski, Daleo and Trimingham more time to think. (A fifth senior, Brianna Cohen, wasn’t at the meet).

“I think that we definitely could have done better, but I think that we put everything that we had into this routine and I don’t think that I have any regrets,” said Minneci, a side base. “I know that I don’t have any regrets … We tried our hardest. We really put everything out there.”

The team’s close bond was reflected in the comments the Wildcats made in interviews afterward.

“We’re motivated by our coach and each other,” Minneci said. “This team changed my whole entire life when I came out for it last year … I can’t imagine just not being on this team.”

Asked what the Wildcats are like, Trimingham answered: “Inspirational. I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t have them. For my four years I went to cheer almost every single day of my life and I’ve had my best friends with me for the whole ride.”