The top 10 competitive cheerleading programs on Long Island, in alphabetical order.
Farmingdale served notice on the Long Island cheer landscape last year when they became the first Nassau squad to win a state title since cheerleading was recognized as a sport. They won the Large Division I Nassau title and qualified for the school’s first appearance at the state championships.
"We shocked the state and quite frankly ourselves and ended up winning a state championship title in just our second season as a varsity team," said Farmingdale coach Caitlin Weinsheimer, Newsday’s Coach of the Year.
Farmingdale will be led by senior Isabella Bilello, a backspot with impeccable jumps and tumbling, and Hailey Schifano, a side base who will be throwing in a round-off full to the Dalers’ routine this season.
Senior Genevieve Himmelberg, a two-year captain, is the epitome of perseverance and returns to lead Freeport after two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries. The resilient Himmelberg, who performs in the back spot, will be joined by co-captain and side base Janaiyah Arce, in her fourth year on varsity. Arce comes back from a torn Achilles tendon.
"Their leadership is pure and natural and they’re so motivated to come back and win Small Division I," Freeport coach Laurie Kolodny said. "It’s great for them to have the chance to compete after all of the adversity of 2020."
The Devils will have six girls back from their coed championship team, which finished third in the state tournament. They finished second in the Nassau finals, edged out by MacArthur by 0.5 for the Small Varsity Division I title in 2019.
Hauppauge made history last year by winning the school’s first team title in the Small Division I tournament. Led by Alexa Waters, Newsday’s Suffolk Cheerleader of the Year, the Eagles also won the Suffolk title. Waters, a six-year starter and third-year captain, is a main base who knows how to hit the most elite skills. She’ll play lacrosse for Florida next year.
Senior captain Alexa DiBenedetto, a five-year member of the squad, is able to do the most elite stunts as a flyer, as well as throw a full, an elite tumbling skill. The Newsday All-Long Island selection has won both an All-Suffolk and MVP award and plans on cheering in college. Hauppauge has outstanding seniors in Julia Morales, Grace Murphy, Brianna Iaboni, and Lily Gennari. They’ve been on the mat since they were freshmen and helped build the foundation of one of Long Island’s premier teams.
The Generals have qualified for nationals for 10 consecutive years and been national finalists six times. MacArthur earned Nassau titles in 2019 and 2020 and placed fifth in the state tournament last year. Senior Callie Koeppen is a four–year starter and the enthusiastic go-to cheerleader for the Generals. Junior Kylie Zanelli is also a four–year starter. "Kylie has maybe the best tumbling on Long Island," MacArthur coach Lisa Nessler said. "She can complete any tumbling pass asked of her."
The Mustangs are the two-time defending state champions in the Large Varsity Division II. They are the first Long Island team to repeat at the state level. The Mustangs have captured five consecutive Suffolk crowns, and in 2019 earned the triple crown of cheer with Suffolk, state and Universal Cheerleaders Association national titles. Seniors Arianna Furbush and Lisa Greenspan have been key athletes and four-year starters. Sara Spadaro and Tatiana Temple have impressive skills to help keep Mount Sinai at the top.
Rocky Point is the most tenured championship team on Long Island. For 17 years, Rocky Point has set the bar for opposing programs. While it is common in all sports for teams to have highs and lows, Rocky Point has been consistently top tier. The Eagles are four-time undefeated Suffolk champions and have captured 12 Long Island crowns. Juniors Marisa Coniglione and Giovana Improta have been on the squad since the eighth grade, winning three Suffolk titles and regional crowns.
Sachem North won two Suffolk titles in the past four years and a state championship in 2019. They have a strong contingent back, including senior Jenna LoCascio, who has been an elite tumbler and main base since eighth grade. Junior Grace Calabria is in her fourth year on varsity and a key tumbler.
Four consecutive Nassau titles has put Seaford in elite company on Long Island. The Vikings placed in the top five at the state competition all four years, finishing second in 2020. Seaford hasn’t lost a local event in four years.
The Vikings are led by 15 seniors, including Samantha Cella, a driving force on the team since eighth grade.
"She started as a flyer and her talent took us to the nationals," Seaford coach Lisa Ferrari said. "She’s a two-year captain with incredible leadership skills and the capability to push her peers to success. She can hit any super elite stunt and is also an elite tumbler."
Cella is joined by senior Paige Vasquez, a key back spot with incredible tumbling skills and junior Megan Gilbert, who can throw a gorgeous full tumbling pass that looks like she’s floating across the mat.
The program bounced between winning the Suffolk crown in the Small Varsity Division in 2019 to finishing third in the Large Varsity Division last year with consistently clean, effective and exciting routines. Smithtown East is led by seniors Brenna Kolahifar (main base), Tori Hobot (flyer), Sofia Sabatino (flyer), and Julianna Napoli (side base).
Since cheerleading became an official sport recognized by the NYPHSAA in 2016, Wantagh has won the Nassau Small Division II titles four times. It has placed in the top three in the state competition all four years. Senior captain Keira Young is a three-year starter who has been cheering in the program since she was seven years old and is currently coaching one of Wantagh’s youth teams. "You won’t be disappointed by her electric energy on the mat," Wantagh coach Jaclyn Bonlarron said. "This year our team will look strong and clean, focusing on execution and technique."
The Panthers are the four-time defending Suffolk champions in Small Division II. One of the proudest accomplishments for this program was hitting a perfect routine at the national event in 2020. The Panthers are led by senior Izabella Kelly, an all-Suffolk athlete who is an elite tumbler and also flies in the routine, and senior side base Haylie Kelly.
The Cougars have seven seniors competing in their fourth year on varsity. As sophomores, they were a part of a team that finished second in the National High School Cheerleading Championship. They bring a ton of experience behind two-time All-Suffolk senior flyer Angelina Damsker. Senior base Marissa Heinz is headed to Sacred Heart University this fall with the hope of continuing her cheerleading career. Senior point flyer Makayla O’Donnell manages to conquer every new skill with grace, and senior flyer Alyssa Scraper excels in jumps, tumbling and stunting.
The Commack program has grown exponentially over the last decade. They have crept into the top 10 in Suffolk in Small Varsity Division I. The Cougars are led by nine seniors, including Megan Tymon (back spot), Marie-Lyse Molvaut (side base) and Jenna Pellegrino (back spot), all varsity members since freshman year. According to coach Chelsea Fluger, the team is comprised of all athletes with elite and super elite standing and running tumbling skills.
The Blue Dragons competed in the coed division for the first time in 2020 and were crowned UCA Empire Regional champions. With only three seniors moving on, the Blue Dragons have reloaded with a bevy of young talent. Senior Jennifer Rodriguez, a four-year varsity flyer and team captain leads the way. Senior captain Frederick Costantini, a two-year main base, and Erica Ramos, a five-year member and coaches award winner, are the keys to success.
Senior Kayla Brabender has been a key back spot for East Islip for the past two years. Senior Jules Keaney, who will cheer at Delaware next year, has been with the program since eighth grade. “Jules is the go-to person for many underclassmen who are looking to better themselves,” East Islip coach Ariel Abesamis said.
The Jets won three straight Nassau titles between 2017-19. They have a large squad, and the loss of seven seniors to graduation would be hard for most programs. But synchrony is the name of the game for East Meadow and the team has mastered elite skills by complimenting each other’s skill sets. They’re led by a senior class that includes Abigail Volpe, Liana Levine, Alexa Duhs and Kayla Levenson.
The class of the east end resides in Hampton Bays. Coach Katie Drohan likens her Baymen to the strong and graceful. Hampton Bays finished third in Suffolk in Small Varsity Division II and is led by senior co-captain Alexis Phillips, a Presidential Scholar, and four-year starter Jen Garcia.
The Massapequa cheer squad is on the rise. They have been incredibly active in the community outreach program and recognized as a scholar-athlete team. On the mat, they are one of Long Island’s largest programs, with between 50 and 60 athletes. They earned the bronze medal at the national event in 2020.
Senior base/flyer Elianna Alexandrakis is a four-year starter and has never missed a practice or competition. Massapequa has a stunt group that’s been together since they were 10 years old. They are all juniors in back spot. Lexi Goodman, flyer Olivia Guido and twins Kelly and Caroline Arent, who are solid at base.
The Red Devils graduated nine seniors from a championship team that captured the Small Division II title in 2020. They were second at the state competition by an excruciating half point. They also claimed the Nassau title in 2016 and 2017.
The Sayville cheer squad is so much more than super competitive on the mat. Sayville was the Suffolk runner-up in the Small Varsity Division II event in 2020 and finished seventh in the state competition, earning the team sportsmanship award.
Three years ago, Shoreham-Wading River had no cheer program. In the past two years, the team has improved enough to finish fourth in consecutive years in the Suffolk Small Division II championships. The team was senior-laden a year ago and will have to fill many spots this year.
This is a cheer squad to be reckoned with in the very near future. In 2020, Smithtown West added 10 new members, including seven freshmen. The two standouts are senior back spot Kristen Downs and sophomore main base Julianna Morris. Both athletes have an unbelievable drive and high level of athleticism, which inspires the team and coaches.
Seniors Chloe Cohen, Ashley Dujmovits and Bailey Mentzinger are a staple at home football and basketball games, performing halftime routines to practice for their competitions. They’re a well-rounded group that also excels in other sports and extracurricular activities such as gymnastics, theater and track. The senior class also includes Kaya Kula, Stephanie Emanuel and Luc Epstein.
West Babylon finished fourth in Suffolk in Large Division II in 2019 and came on strong in 2020 to win the Suffolk crown. The Eagles were the state runner-up in 2020 behind Newsday’s two-time All-Long Island selection Joliene Ewan.