New Rochelle cheerleaders win national titles at UCA championship

New Rochelle High School's Huguenots' varsity and junior varsity cheer teams won their divisions at the UCA National Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2013)

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Members of the varsity football team at New Rochelle High School aren't the only champs in town now that the Huguenots' varsity and junior varsity cheer teams have won their divisions at the UCA National Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla.

This is the first time either squad brought home a national title. The victors, wearing their white championship jackets, returned to the high school Tuesday night to be welcomed by families and friends.

"This is absolutely shocking. Huge. A sweep," Lori Morrow, mother of JV cheerleader Kayla Morrow, said in a phone interview earlier Tuesday, "I almost fell over."

Close to 40 members of the varsity and JV cheerleading squads took part last weekend in the competition, nationally televised on ESPN. The JV squad, under the direction of coaches Elaina Edwards and E.J. Vitiez, won on Feb. 9. The varsity team captured its title the next day.

"It was amazing when we won. I couldn't breathe, I was so happy," varsity cheerleader Ashley Codrington said by phone before the teams left Florida for home Tuesday.

"Our goal at the end of the day was to give 110 percent," added teammate Janay Key.

Chrissy Stanionis, who has coached the varsity squad for 15 years, said Tuesday that she was still in a state of disbelief. "It hasn't fully hit me that we won," she said. "The closest we've ever come is second."

Stanionis said the varsity win was a team effort that wouldn't have happened without the support of families and local businesses.

"We had a lot of people helping us," she said, singling out, among other individuals, New Rochelle's varsity football coach Jimmy Benge for his behind-the-scenes support. He tasted victory himself last fall, when his team won the state championship.

"This year we thought we could do it," Stanionis said. "If you go to the finals and you're good enough to win, you've just got to believe it and not crack under the pressure."

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