Performing at halftime before a standing room only homecoming crowd Saturday was just a warm-up act for the Smithtown East cheerleading and kickline teams.
Both spirit and support squads are nationally ranked with major competitions on the horizon. The kickline team, known as the Whisperettes and coached by Sarahbeth Cook, is seeking its 16th consecutive national championship this winter while the cheerleaders will try and build off placing 11th nationally last year.
Competing among the country’s top teams requires major commitment. Once football season ends, the kickline and dance teams hold lengthy practices every day after school. Fundraising is also needed to take the national stage with team members often out in the community looking for business sponsorships and holding bake sales.
“It’s a huge commitment but it is well worth it,” said senior Taylor Emerson, who captains the kickline team along with Christina Montesano and Caicee Harrigan. “During competition season practices are very intense.”
The Smithtown East cheerleaders, who have captured the last five Long Island championships in the Small Varsity Division, mentored youth cheerleaders in the district during homecoming week as part of its community outreach and fundraising efforts. The program, which is coached by Elizabeth Schlitt and her mother, Robyn Woisin, also hosts a regional competition each December two months before the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida.
“You have to commit to not going out a lot during competition season when there is a curfew, but it is fun because we are all friends on the team,” said senior Catherine Schilling, who is one of three cheerleading captains along with Caroline Downs and Darby Quinn. “Football season is more about fun and once football ends, we get more competitive into our own season.”
Maintaining the tradition of excellence these programs have established over the years serves as a key motivator in the midst of grueling practices.
“We know about all the girls before us who put the work in,” said Harrigan. “We want to keep the legacy going.”