Caitlin Thrash clearly enjoys being of service to others, whether that service is lifting a cheerleader high in the air during a routine or coming to the aid of an emergency victim.
Oh, and one more thing: Thrash is smashing stereotypes along the way.
So, who exactly is Caitlin Thrash?
Answer: All of the above. Check all three of those boxes.
Thrash, a senior on the Shoreham-Wading River High School competitive cheerleading team, also competes as an independent gymnast with William Floyd and is a budding firefighter.
The Shoreham resident has a background in gymnastics that dates back to when she was 5 years old. Because SWR doesn’t have a gymnastics team, she has competed independently. High school gymnastics is slated to start its shortened season March 1. The cheerleading season began Feb. 1.
But what really may raise eyebrows is Thrash’s involvement as a probationary member of Rocky Point Fire Department Shoreham Company 3.
Thrash has no relatives in the fire department, but one of her neighbors is an ex-chief of the department and another is the current chief. She was encouraged to join the department’s junior company, which she did as a freshman.
“I ended up loving it,” she said.
So much so that Thrash plans to attend the Suffolk County Fire Academy in order to receive certification that would permit her to enter a burning building to fight fires. In the meantime, she has been serving as an exterior member, riding in a fire truck with sirens wailing (“That is, like, an awesome feeling,” she said), serving as an ambulance aide, attending training sessions and meetings.
Kiran Malhotra, a second lieutenant with Shoreham Company 3, said those introduced to the firefighting life typically have one of two extreme reactions to it. “You either love or hate it,” he said.
There was no question what Thrash’s reaction was.
“Honestly, just being able to know that you helped somebody … it’s the greatest feeling in itself,” she said. “And the people that you meet there, I would consider all of them my brothers, honestly. They’re family at this point, and I feel … like that bond that I have with them is … a combination between family and brotherhood.”
Malhotra said Thrash has been “honestly, probably one of our better probies to ever come up.” He added: “At the stage that Caitlin’s at right now, she’s just training as much as she can. She’s going to a lot of exterior operations.”
Although Thrash said she has enjoyed great success as a gymnast, winning titles at national and state championships, continual injuries prompted her to step away from club gymnastics and give cheerleading a try last year.
“You get the best of gymnastics, the best of dance, and put it all together and you get cheerleading,” she said. “I think that’s what I love.”
Here’s a common denominator for being an athlete and a firefighter: Both require a lot of strength.
Thrash has come a long way in only two years of cheerleading and is one of the team’s three co-captains. As a main base, her duties include lifting and holding flyers up in the air, catching them and participating in single-base stunts where she is the only base underneath the stunt.
“She is definitely one of our stronger girls on the mat,” coach Brie Carlen said. “We rely on her a lot, especially this year because she doesn’t stop throughout our entire routine. She’s in literally every single part of it, so she’s handling a lot right now.”
Thrash’s younger sister, Meghan, a sophomore main base, is in her first varsity season on the team and is in the fire department’s junior program.
Carlen said in her 14 years as a cheerleading coach, Caitlin Thrash is the first she has ever coached who has been involved in a fire department.
“You don’t ever really hear it, and I love it, you know, because she shows girls her age everywhere that you can do it, you can do both if that’s what you want,” Carlen said, adding, “We’re proud of her. She’s such a motivation.”