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MacArthur wins Nassau cheerleading title by a fraction over defending champ Freeport

MacArthur cheerleaders react after the conclusion of their

MacArthur cheerleaders react after the conclusion of their routine in the Nassau cheerleading championships at Hofstra University on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Credit: James Escher

It came down to a mere .525.

That’s all that separated the winner from the pack of fierce Division I small school competitors at the Nassau cheerleading championship at Hofstra on Sunday.

MacArthur saluted its way to the top, earning its first county title by beating defending champion Freeport by that half point.

“We knew it would be close,” Karena Checco said. “We had this feeling at the end of our routine, after we hit all our stunts, that we did our absolute best and that’s all we could’ve asked for.”

The Generals executed their stunts strongly. On the first difficult sequence, a low-to-high with a 540 twist, some stunt groups were a little shaky, but MacArthur held it together and stayed high.

“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season,” Kayla Lesak said.

Said Alyssa Amatulli: “One of our groups used to be a modified one, where they do an easier version of our stunts. We kept pushing each other and now we’re all doing the same skills.”

The Generals next head to the state championship on March 2 in Rochester. For them, it’s just another mountain to move.

“Last year our saying was ‘climb the mountain,’ ” Kelly Cook said. “This year we’re moving the mountain. We started it here at counties and we’ll do that same at states.”

Another first-time county winner: Island Trees. The Bulldogs earned first place in the co-ed division despite a few setbacks.

“We had some last-minute switches,” Jessie Najdek said. “We switched someone in the routine. In warmups, our stunts weren’t hitting but we pulled out the win.”  

Island Trees wasn’t expecting a title but the team is happy to add the championship banner to its gymnasium wall.

“We made it our goal to win counties,” Daniella Difino said.

“Regardless of what happens at states,” Najdek said, “we accomplished so much winning counties. We’ll be ready.”

East Meadow completed a three-peat in Division I large schools, overcoming a bit of a mishap during its performance.

“I couldn’t think of a better end to this season then saying we’re three-time county champs,” Lexi Dolan said. “It was stressful coming into the meet because there is pressure to defend our title but I’m glad we pulled through.”  

The Jets stuck their beginning stunts and had the crowd cheering their chant of “J-E-T-S. Jets, Jets, Jets.”

They had a fall going into the final stunt but the Jets pulled it together for the pyramid.

“We’re a team,” Arianna Duhs said. “No matter who falls, you have to work harder to pick them up. It’s all about the team’s success. When we go to states, we’ll be successful there.”

Seaford also three-peated in Division II large schools. The Vikings stuck their routine including their most difficult stunt, a 2-to-1 high-to-high, where flyers go up on two feet and spin landing on one foot.

“We go into the gym everyday and work hard,” Jordan Gilbert said. “It’s amazing to show everyone what we work on and come out as county champions again.”  

Seaford has placed in the top five the last two years at the state meet. They’re ready to go higher.

“We’re going to keep pushing,” Krista Carano said. “We’re going to clean up our routine for states and hopefully bring home a championship.”

The Wantagh team is thinking the same thing. The Warriors are four-time county champions and two-time winners in Division II small schools. They’ve gone to the state meet three times and have placed second two years in a row.

They’re hungry for first.

“We’re our biggest competition,” Chloe Janosko said. “We know we just have to keep it in the air and push ourselves to be better than we were in the last meet.”

Wantagh almost had a fall in its routine Sunday but Janosko kept herself up, trusting her bases. They’ll bring that same attitude to states.

“We’re constantly talking to each other on the mat and that helps us know we can stick anything,” Lauren Manzo said. “Knowing that we’ve won counties these last few years pushes us to keep the streak going and we definitely want to do that at states.”

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