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East Meadow cheerleading overcomes obstacles for first victory of the season

Sofia Molina of East Meadow performs during a

Sofia Molina of East Meadow performs during a Nassau County cheerleading competition held at East Meadow High School on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. The host Jets took first place in Division 1 Large Varsity. Credit: James Escher

It hadn’t been the best of seasons for the East Meadow cheerleading team.

The three-time Nassau Division I champs had not won a Nassau competition all season. Things seemed to be getting worse this week for the Jets when four members of the team missed practices with various ailments and injuries.

But East Meadow changed some of its routine and groupings, plus focused on having a different outlook.

“We just took on a new mindset,” senior Emily Stea said.

Senior teammate Emma Ryall put it blunty: “Enough was enough.”

The Jets exploded with a high-energy performance before a boisterous home crowd of 500 to earn a first-place finish in the Division I Large schools section Saturday at the East Meadow Cheerleading Competition. Farmingdale continued its fantastic season and was named runner-up.

“It’s been a little rough this season,” Jets senior Gianna Como said. “At times we’ve been frustrated, and others just sad.”

East Meadow coach Stephanie Callan noticed a change after the Jets won a regional event at Nassau County Community College earlier this season.

“They thought things were going to come easy after that,” Callan said.

But teams like Farmingdale kept racking up wins, while the Jets managed only a pair of runner-up finishes.

“Something just clicked this week,” Callan said.

The Jets cheerleaders agreed with their coach’s sentiments.

“We just wanted it so bad,” Stea said. “Not just for those who were competing, but for our teammates who couldn’t.”

Missing some key members, and having to change groupings and parts of the routine, sounds as if it would have been a negative for the Jets. Instead, it was just the opposite.

“We had to learn how to co-exist,” Ryall said.

After a great week of practice, the Jets still had to execute during their 2-minute, 30-second performance with members of the East Meadow junior varsity and Woodland Middle School cheerleading squads sitting matside giving the team extra motivation.

“We weren’t going to be embarrassed at home,” Stea said. “Those are our mats that we practice on.”

The Jets have some big competitions on the horizon, including the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship at Walt Disney World in Orlando from Feb. 6-10, and the Nassau cheerleading championships at Hofstra University on March 1.

East Meadow wasn’t the only defending Nassau champ that was having a challenging season. Wantagh — which has won four straight Nassau Division II crowns — had not won a Nassau event either.

But that changed Saturday. Wantagh, the first team to take the mat in the Division II Small schools section, dominated the event with a high-level-of-difficulty performance en route to a first-place finish. Clarke was the runner-up in the six-team field.

The Warriors worked throughout the week on their transitions out of sequences. While assistant coach Alex Grange still feels Wantagh has room for improvement in that area, she was pleased with the Warriors’ performance.

“We worked so hard,” Grange said. “I’m very proud of the girls.”

Although there have been occasional struggles this season, the Warriors never doubted themselves nor their ability.

“We set the bar high and we have the skills to do it,” Wantagh senior Nicole Lipski said. “As long as we hit our routine, we don’t have to worry about anybody.”

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