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Cheerleading: A first for SWR — county champion!

Members of the Shoreham-Wading River cheerleading team began training together way back in June in preparation for what was believed to be a rebuilding season. Well, the Wildcats sure built themselves into something — county champions.

Who would have thought?

Surely, not many back in the summer. Just look at the breakdown: Of the team’s 19 athletes (only two seniors among them), only four had ever competed on a mat before. That left a lot of newbies and a lot of question marks.

Those question marks have since been replaced by exclamation marks as SWR won its first Suffolk County championship Saturday.

Competing as a Division II large school team for the first time after having been a Division II small school, SWR pulled off a score of 86.3, the highest in program history, coach Brie Carlen said, and good for first place at Hauppauge High School.

SWR’s execution of its 2-minute, 30-second routine was spot-on.

“They crushed it,” said Carlen, a former SWR cheerleader herself in her fifth year coaching the team. “It was so good. It was hands down the best performance that Shoreham-Wading River has ever put out there.”

The Wildcats finished 13.7 points ahead of second-place Miller Place.

“We’re kind of in shock,” Carlen said. “We weren’t expecting it.”

When the results were announced, Trentowski said, “Everybody just got so excited. Everyone started hugging each other, freaking out. Some people started crying.”

Carlen said: “They were hysterical crying. They’re all on cloud nine right now.”

SWR was led by its four captains (and only experienced cheerleaders entering the season): junior flyer Katie Dawson, senior back Elizabeth Holden, junior back/flyer Juliana Lautato and junior main base/flyer Jillian Trentowski. Holden and Isabella Stewart are the only two seniors.

The rest of the team: Jocelynn Besold, Kaylee Brady, Olivia Beirne, Amber Condzella, Kaitlyn Fioretti, Gianna Hughes, Katie Lahey, Alexa Langenhahn, Mery Macias, Naomi Madrid, Aleia Marcellino, Katelyn Morello, Leah Tufano and Gabrielle Ziegler.

“It’s such a special team,” Carlen said. “We only have four out of 19 of our athletes that have ever competed before, so it’s a very new team, and we really thought it was going to be a building year. But they’re also driven and take everything so seriously that we were able to make huge strides this year.”

SWR had good preparation for the county meet by competing in the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 11. SWR didn’t advance beyond the preliminaries, but posted its highest score ever at a national meet: 79.2.

“Even though we didn’t make it past prelims, we watched our division and semis and finals, and we watched a lot of these top teams in the country and my girls got to experience what these bigger schools do,” Carlen said. “So, because of that, they came into county championships a whole new team.”

Dawson said the experience in Orlando “really like opened our eyes and made us push to win that county championship.”

Another first is on the horizon for SWR. The Wildcats qualified for the New York State Competitive Cheerleading Championships March 5 at Rochester Institute of Technology. Spectators will not be permitted to attend, in keeping with a capacity limit of under 400 that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has set for the event at Gordon Fieldhouse.

“I’m just super proud of all the goals that we completed and how far we’ve come this season as a team, and we’ve just pushed beyond what we thought would happen,” said Trentowski.

Carlen said it all still hasn’t sunk in for her.

“It just doesn’t feel real yet,” she said. “We’re so proud of our team. They came from nothing and made it something and they’re just so special.”

Fourth place for Riverhead

In Division I small schools, Riverhead finished fourth with a score of 89.15 Saturday. Sachem North won the division with a score of 96.4 to earn a spot at the state tournament. There were 10 teams that qualified for the county meet in Division I small schools.