In just their second year as a varsity team, Farmingdale won the Division I Large School crown at the state cheerleading tournament at RIT on March 7, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Laura Amato

ROCHESTER, NY – There were more than a few tears shed when the Farmingdale cheerleading team walked off the mat at Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday afternoon.

But they weren’t tears of defeat, or sadness.

These were tears of complete and utter joy as the Dalers captured the Division I Large School title in the state cheerleading tournament. It’s the second year Farmingdale, which won with a score of 89.98, has competed at the varsity level and the third year for the program.

“It’s very special and emotional to see it,” senior back spot Mianna Welch said. “We fought so hard for this.”

Coach Caitlin Weinsheimer said many of the girls on this year’s team were part of the initial movement to bring the sport to Farmingdale, going to school board meetings and “requesting that competitive cheerleading be a part of our athletic program.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Weinsheimer said. “These girls, their work ethic is unbelievable, and they are determined to get better. They have progressed so much from just the beginning of the season to now.”

Although the team itself might be young, Farmingdale wasn’t intimidated by the spotlight. The Dalers were third after the opening round and came into the final looking for one, last opportunity to prove what they could do.

“Today, it was about using the fact that this was our final ride to really push us,” Welch said. “We gave it everything we had, and left it all out on the mat.”

Farmingdale executed its routine with confidence, highlighted by its opening stunt. Senior flyer Gianna Costa said the Dalers focus on the move in practice, working “to make sure it’s perfect.”

In this case, practice really did make perfect, and helped Farmingdale find a rhythm en route to the championship.

“After we hear the crowd go crazy on that one, it really motivates us to hit the rest of the routine,” Costa said.

The Dalers weren’t the only team from Nassau county making history.

Plainedge, making its third appearance in the state tournament, recorded the program’s highest finish, placing second in Division II Small School with a score of 82.70.

“We were motivated,” senior back spot Alexandra Meule said. “We know there’s nowhere else you can go from here. So you might as well leave it all on the mat.”

Although the Red Devils admitted to some difficult practices heading into the state tournament, senior Alyssa Kannavos said the squad refused to linger on the past while getting ready for the final.

“We knew it didn’t matter, what had happened,” Kannavos said. “What mattered was what was going to happen. We were all confident walking onto the mat.”

That confidence grew throughout the routine as the Red Devils executed their stunts and drew more than a few cheers from the crowd.

“The crowd is what motivates us to keep our energy up,” Kannavos said. “It was incredible. We worked hard all season for this.”

Plainedge coach Marie Esposito credited the Red Devils for their performance, adding: “The girls had a couple mistakes in prelims, but then they came out and gave one of the best performances of the season. There was energy and confidence, so we’re really proud of them.”

Seaford captured its own second-place finish in Division II Large School, after coming in third last season. It’s the fourth straight year the Vikings, who had a score of 93.25, have qualified for the state tournament and while they were hoping for a title, were still proud of everything they accomplished.

“They just did what they had to do,” Seaford coach Lisa Ferrari said. “They focused, and they gave everything they had.”

Freeport finished third in the co-ed division with a score of 80.88, while MacArthur placed fourth in Division I Small School with a score of 91.15.

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