Perfect execution is helpful when you’re trying to win a county title. Just ask the Massapequa cheerleading team.
Massapequa had zero points deducted from its routine Sunday and captured the Division I Large Schools title at the Nassau championships at Hofstra University. It marks the first county championship in program history.
“When you watch everyone hit, all that excitement builds up. I’ve never had that big of a smile on my face,” Ashlee Kazan said. “As soon as the music turned off, I was like, ‘Yeah, we did it.’”
Massapequa earned an 82.85, the highest possible score for the difficulty of its routine. It was also its highest score all season.
Massapequa was the only Division I team to open its routine with a cheer, rather than tumbling and performing stunts with music.
“I think it gets everyone’s attention right away and we’re a pretty big team, so the plan was to be a little different,” coach Kayla Bettineschi said.
MacArthur came close to perfection, as it suffered just one fall in its final stunt. The Generals overall performance earned them a victory in the Coed division.
“We all focus on ourselves when we’re on the mat,” Kelly O’Leary said. “If something does happen with one of our groups, the rest of us don’t see it, and we’re able to keep going.”
“Even when things go wrong, it’s hard to tell because the energy is so high,” Bailey Rothman added.
After winning the Division I Large Schools state title last year, MacArthur moved to the Coed division for the first time, with 19 new cheerleaders on the roster of 30.
“Our program prepares everyone so well from JV and on,” Lauren Dean said. “We were able to mesh easily.”
Seaford earned the highest score of the championships with a 97.3 to win the Division II Large Schools title.
The Vikings set themselves apart with their opening stunt: a front tuck-up. According to coach Lisa Ferrari, Seaford is the first school in the nation to execute the stunt in competition.
“We’ve done it in pyramids before, but now we have five different stand-alone front tuck-ups,” Kayla Fallarino-Forte said.
Seaford, which earned its sixth straight county title, will look to defend its state championship in a couple of weeks.
“Everyone talks really highly about some teams like us,” Brianna Mirenda said. “You want to prove that it’s not just talk.”
Plainedge, which fell just short at last year's championship, claimed the Division II Small Schools title.
Coach Marie Esposito said Plainedge entered as one of the favorites to win last year, but had its worst performance of the year in the final.
“This was our redemption,” Sara Reise said. “It’s the best feeling because we’ve had a rocky season, but for it all to pay off like this is so rewarding.”
Plainedge scored a 93.35 for its fourth county title, marking its highest score of the season.
“We started off the season with a completely different routine, but we realized there were better things out there for us,” Julia Zarra said.
Farmingdale also benefitted from improving its routine and won the Division I Small Schools competition.
“Our routine has had several upgrades since the start of the season,” coach Caitlin Beatrice said. “We’ve only been competing with this routine for about two months.”
“We had a hard week of practice and we wanted to change a few things up,” GiAnna Esposito added.
Farmingdale earned its second county title in the program’s five-year existence.
Ten of Farmingdale’s 15 cheerleaders are freshmen. Esposito and Natalie Hernandez-Cruz are the only remaining members from 2020 team, when the school won the state title.
“What we do doesn’t change just because it’s for the state championship,” Hernandez-Cruz said.
All five schools will compete at the state championships March 4 at Visions Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.