Mount Sinai is known statewide as the home of a cheerleading dynasty.
The team has won more state titles than any other sport in school history . . . and the inaugural season was in 2016. Mount Sinai added its fifth title this season after winning in 2016, 2019, 2021 and 2022. That's four in a row (there was no state event in 2020 because of the pandemic). The last two titles were in the Division II small school category.
So what's the secret to the squad’s success? They're all-in love with the sport.
“We don’t dedicate ourselves to this sport to win championships,” DeAnna Pesce said. “We do it because we love it.”
Added Liz Fusco, "Winning is a fraction of what we do. It’s about putting on the best possible performance and making ourselves, the coaches and the community proud of what we do.”
Coach Megan Wesolowski, who has been at the helm since 2016, instills that mindset in her team.
“At almost every practice, I ask them each to remember their whys,” she said. "Why are you here? Why do you spend countless hours in the gym?”
While the countless hours were evident in the precision of their elite stunts and tumbling passes, it was easy to distinguish their expressive faces and high energy. The main flyers, Ashley Kandell, Ava Furbush and Lyla Giarizzo, were often seen pumping their fists at the top in excitement.
“A lot of people crack under pressure, but our team does its best under pressure,” Fusco said. “Pressure for us was a good thing because when it came down to it, that’s where we excelled.”
“As soon as we took to the mat, we got that surge of energy that really helped us take it to another level,” Rosalie Calamas said. “Being in your own world with your own team makes everything so much easier for us. We’re a fun group off the mat so we would just channel that energy into the routine.”
Wesolowski noted that the Mustangs returned only half of their team this season after graduating 10 seniors, which switched the focus in their routine.
“It started off as a rebuilding year," Wesolowski said. "This year we didn’t have as much tumbling as we’ve had in the past. Instead, we leaned into our pyramids and stunts and that’s how we were able to perfect the routine."
“It was the toughest season we’ve had. There was so much more competition,” Fusco said. “We knew we had to put the work in and build the best possible routine. We wanted to continue what the previous teams left for us.”
A little help from former Mustangs helped make a difference more than ever this year.
“Our alumni are so supportive. There’s always at least one at every practice,” Calamas said. “Even when you’re out of the program, you’ll always come back.”
The soon-to-be alumni will continue that tradition to keep the Mount Sinai name on future leaderboards.
“I’ll be back next year,” said Pesce, a senior. “It’s just what you do. You’re a part of this team for life.”