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Riverhead cheerleaders given warm send-off before trip to Florida for nationals

A crowd of parents, friends and supporters of the Riverhead cheerleading program gathered in the hallway of Riverhead Middle School Tuesday evening. Inside the gymnasium, the varsity cheerleading team put the finishing touches on one final practice before they would board a plane to Florida early Wednesday morning.

At around 5:45 p.m., junior varsity coach Chelsea Cawley opened the doors to the gym, and apologized for the delay, as the spectators streamed inside for a send-off event before the team competes this weekend at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championships.

The Blue Waves had already put in an early morning practice before sunrise Tuesday, but still wanted to squeeze every last second of preparation.

“All of these kids this year have done amazing things,” varsity coach Stephanie Piraino told the crowd, adding that the team came back even stronger after missing so much time due to the pandemic and budget cuts.

The Blue Waves compete at 11:30 a.m. Friday in preliminaries at Walt Disney World Resort. The goal is to advance into the semifinals and then the finals of their division.

Assistant coach Sue Ries, who rejoined the program this year, encouraged everyone to “say a little prayer” for the team Friday morning before they compete.

“Think of us when we’re there,” she said. “Lift us up a little bit. This is a great team and we want to see them succeed.”

The team gave the crowd a sneak peak with a flawless performance of their two-minute routine at the send-off event.

Piraino said that no matter how the competition goes in Florida, she knows the team did everything it could to prepare.

“I don’t know that there’s a group of kids that worked harder and they do it together and they wall want to be successful,” she said.

Piraino also acknowledged each of the team’s seniors: Reanna Menotti, Mikayla Scott, Alyssa Tomko and Madison Runnalls.

When the Blue Waves return from Disney, they’ll get back into their regular varsity competition and begin preparation for the Section XI Championship Feb. 19 at Hauppauge High School.

See more photos from Tuesday’s event below: