Newsday Cheerleader of the Year: Alexa Waters, Hauppauge, Main Base, Sr.
The long practice hours, diligence in the classroom and ability to lead are the components that make up our Suffolk Cheerleader of the Year. For the second year in a row, Waters demonstrated outstanding teamwork, individual prowess and academic excellence to garner Newsday’s Cheerleader of the Year.
The six-year starter captained the Eagles for three years and excelled as a main base and a back spot. She led Hauppauge to the highest overall scores during a virtual season, scoring in the 90s in all of them.
"Alexa has competed and hit all the newest and most difficult stunts," said Hauppauge coach Laura Candela. "She is known for her elite skills and athleticism and working with younger teammates to help correct technique."
She’ll play lacrosse next year for the Florida Gators.
Alyssa Barbaro, West Babylon, Flyer, Jr.
The middle flyer for the Eagles, nicknamed Barbs, has been a three-year member of the varsity. She is always positioned front and center for the cheer, jumps and the dance portions of the Eagles routine. "Alyssa’s technical skills are extraordinary," said West Babylon coach Brianne Hyer. "She is currently and has been our middle flyer and an elite tumbler. Her skills are not only elite but also perfectly executed." Barbaro successfully executed a variety of twisting skills during the cheer section of the Eagles routine. Her pyramid skills are only from the super elite section of the scoring rubric.
Grace Calabria, Sachem North, Secondary Base, Jr.
Calabria is a four-year starter and began as a flyer for two years and now competes as a secondary base while performing the most elite tumbling. She contributed to two Suffolk title runs in 2018 and 2019 as well as the Flaming Arrows state championship in 2019. She’s an elite tumbler and has competed in everything from tick tock full arounds and one and a half ups to round off ups and high to highs as a flyer. "We can put Grace in any spot, and she’ll make the stunt work," said Sachem North coach Danielle Gresalfi.
Samantha Cella, Seaford, Main Base, Sr.
The two-year captain made the difficult transition from a two-year flyer to the team’s main base. "She has the capability of hitting the most difficult super elite stunts and does it with ease," said Seaford coach Lisa Ferrari. "She has complete control of her stunts and has confidence in her stunt groups." Cella has been a driving force in leading Seaford to four straight Nassau crowns and four consecutive undefeated seasons.
Marisa Coniglione, Rocky Point, Side Base, Jr.
She is a blend of exceptional talent, leadership and work ethic. She has been a key component to three straight Suffolk championship teams and a state titlist in Small Division I in 2019. The four-year starter since the eighth grade has been a side base, flyer and tumbler. The captain is an exceptional athlete, one of the best to come through the Eagles program.
Freddy Costantini, Division, Main Base, Sr.
Division finished second in two co-ed competitions and they have Costantini to thank. He is a senior who can execute elite tumbling skills such as layouts, fulls, and standing tucks and as a main base. "Freddy is truly the most talented high school male cheerleader on Long Island," said Division coach Cristen Ronzo. "He can perform one-man partner stunts such as libs, fulls and walk-ins. This year, in the middle of our pyramid he caught a back flip to the top with one hand."
Alexa DiBenedetto, Hauppauge, Flyer, Sr.
The five-year varsity performer led the Eagles to two consecutive Suffolk titles and a state crown. She is also known for her elite skills and athleticism. Alexa has competed and hit all the newest and most difficult stunts. "She is a devoted teammate who has been a positive role model for the whole team," said Hauppauge coach Laura Candela. She is a two-time All-Long Island selection.
Arianna Furbush, Mount Sinai, Flyer, Sr.
The two-time All-Long Island selection has mastered the art of flying. The four-year starter has been instrumental helping Mount Sinai claim two state championships and a national title. Her top tier tumbling skills include a full and a standing tuck. Furbush has also perfected some of the most elite stunts the sport allows.
Genevieve Himmelberg, Freeport, Back Spot, Sr.
Himmelberg is all about perseverance, coming back from two ACL injuries, to lead the Red Devils. The back spot is a two-year captain and led her team to the 2020 Nassau Co-ed championship and a third-place finish at the state championships. "Her super elite stunting ability, and elite tumbling, has been the key to our successes over the past four years," said Freeport coach Laurie Kolodny.
Alexa Poplawski, Oceanside, Back Spot, Sr.
Poplawski quickly became a most valuable asset because of her tumbling abilities, crowd leading skills, stunting expertise, leadership qualities and overall positive attitude. She is the strongest back spot on the team and can make any stunt hit — and often saves many. "Alexa is truly the definition of ‘the whole package,’" said Oceanside coach Samantha Chaback. "She is intelligent, driven and talented. She is a true role model to the younger members of our program and the children in our community."
Brooke Tyler, West Islip, Flyer, Sr.
Tyler is an elite tumbler and dancer for the past five years for the Lions. The lead flyer performs all elite skills while possessing the ability to make them look effortless, as she draws the attention of the entire audience.
"Power and grace are two traits that can rarely be combined and yet Brooke does so beautifully when she flies," said West Islip coach Dina Barone. "She is a lead tumbler and consistently throws her elite tumbling pass, a full, for every full out we ask for at practice, and then hits them beautifully at our competitions."
Kylie Zanelli, MacArthur, Main Base, Jr.
Zanelli is an extraordinarily versatile athlete. Even though she is a main base, when the team was down a flyer, she flew for a season so the team could remain in the medium varsity category. When the team needed secondary bases, Kylie perfected her technique and sided in the routines partner stunt category. The past two years she has excelled at main base. "As a main base, Kylie is underneath every single stunt that brings the team into the elite category," said MacArthur coach Lisa Nessler. "Kylie is one of the best tumblers in the state and quite possibly in the country. Her skills are so elite that they are almost rare to see."
Coach of the Year: Lisa Nessler, MacArthur
She has molded the Generals cheer program into one of Long Island’s best.
All-Long Island Cheerleading second team
Elianna Alexandrakis, Massapequa, base, Sr.
Janaiyah Arce, Freeport, base, Sr.
Rhiannon Bradley, Bellmore JFK, main base, Sr.
Grace Buckshaw, Whitman, main base, Sr.
Victoria Cannata, Plainedge, main base, Jr
Kristen Downs, Smithtown West, back spot, Sr.
Megan Gilbert, Seaford, flyer, Jr.
Matthew Guglielmo, Oceanside, main base, Jr.
Giovana Improta, Rocky Point, main base, Jr.
Jules Keaney, East Islip, flyer, Sr.
Callie Koeppen, MacArthur, back spot, Sr.
Brenna Kolahafir, Smithtown East, main base, Sr.
Brooke Legaspi, Mount Sinai, flyer, So.
Jenna LoCascio, Sachem North, main base, Sr.
Natalie Patelli, Commack, flyer, Sr.
Jenna Pellegrino, Commack, back spot, Sr.
Briella Russo, Sachem East, main base, Sr.
Hailey Schifano, Farmingdale, side base, Sr.
Kayla Unterweiser, Connetquot, flyer, So.
Keira Young, Wantagh, flyer, Jr.