MacArthur cheerleaders Jovanna DiChiara (left), Madison Drauch (left center), Stephanie...

MacArthur cheerleaders Jovanna DiChiara (left), Madison Drauch (left center), Stephanie Caldron (right center), and Cami Sandkhul react in shock after finding out they won first place in the Division 1 large category of the New York State cheerleading championships in Rochester on March 5. Credit: Lauren Petracca

Last season, the MacArthur girls cheerleading team separated themselves from every other team in their program’s history, by accomplishing something no other has.

On Saturday, March 5, at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the team hoisted their first state Division I Large School championship in school history by placing first in the state  competition with a total of 87.55 points.

“All of our hard work from the season just paid off, it was literally a dream come true,” said All-Division captain Tiffany Pereira. “For it to come true, it was really really great.”

The newly-crowned state champions aren’t strangers to success. After winning back- to- back county titles, they had another outstanding regular season, winning six out of seven of their local team competitions, which ensured they would be making their way to the county championships again as the top-seeded team.

First however, they had to travel to nationals, which proved to be the ignition the team needed to do what’s never been done by the program before. After not performing how they wanted to at nationals, the team rebounded by changing their approach on how they practiced and prepared for their routines.

Coach Lisa Nessler, who started coaching with the program back in 2005, spoke on what their new mindset was moving forward. “ One of the things we really focused on was mentality,” Nessler said.

“Up until that point in the season we were working the physical aspect…but we wanted to now focus on mental preparedness, so we did a lot of team meditating and verbal walkthroughs to clean up everything and make sure our synchronization was on.”

From there, MacArthur took their new approach and rode it all the way past the county tournament for a third straight time and into the state tournament in Rochester.

This all culminated with Macarthur, for the first time ever, hearing their name called as champions of the state tournament.

“I collapsed to the floor and could not believe what happened,” senior Gisele Encarnacion said after finding out her team had won. “I was so in shock, I just ran up to my friends and hugged them and we were all in tears. It was a moment I wish I could relive forever.”

“I think this year we had a very close bond, closer than we had in the past,” said captain Kylie Zanelli, who was named All-County as well as receiving the Keane Award for her performance this year.

“Our family aspect and togetherness is what really made us get the state title last year.”

When asked what she hopes to leave behind as a legacy for the MacArthur cheer program, Zanelli said “I wanted the younger kids to know what success felt like so when I am gone they can pass that onto the next generation.”

“To win my senior year and know that I’m leaving the younger kids with something to work for, and how to work hard, that was really important.”


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