For your ordinary high school student, President’s Week means winter recess, sleeping late and taking it easy -- finally. But for a group of cheerleaders on a mission, there are no breaks.
Everyday during this week’s school vacation, the Babylon cheerleaders woke up around 7 a.m. so they could be at practice by 8 a.m. When their alarms went off, there was no reluctance. The journey to practice at Babylon High School did not include sulking. This is exactly where they wanted to be.
“At our school, people don’t really see cheerleading as a big thing,” senior Alexa Vega said. “We wanted to prove everyone wrong. Today we did that.”
By winning the Small Varsity Division II title at the first Suffolk cheerleading championships yesterday at Longwood, the Panthers made a clear statement:
“We’re athletes, just as much as the kids in other sports are,” senior Meagan Wilmoth said.
This year, the first in which state-wide regulations were implemented as varsity cheerleading became a recognized sport in New York, the Panthers have four captains: Vega, Wilmoth, senior Skye Bertoldo and junior Alexandra Singleton. But in coach Jennifer Shelorke’s second year at Babylon, this is by all accounts a new group that required meshing if it wanted to be successful.
“Last year, we had a very different team from this year,” Vega said. “To be very successful as a team, you need to have a strong bond with each other, and that’s what we’ve developed over the course of this season.”
Babylon’s win in the five-team field yesterday marked its fourth victory at a competition this season.
“Last year, we weren’t even a thought out there,” Wilmoth said. “It changed this year because of the type of people we have on the team, and the way we all came together.
“We treat each other more like a family than a team.”
Of all the Panther’s performances this season, Singleton ranks their county-winning routine at the top.
“I think this is honestly the best routine that we’ve done this whole year,” she said. “It was an out-of-body experience.
“After they announced fourth, third, second, it was so exciting. I knew that there were going to be tears today, but I was just hoping that they would be happy ones. And they were.”