A collective sigh of relief could be heard after the NYSPHSAA state cheerleading championships in Rochester March 2. Well, mostly from the Rocky Point section. The Eagles brought home the top prize in Small School Division I.
For the team, the coaches and the community, it was about time.
“Finally,” coach Anna Spallina said, laughing. “We went into the competition hopeful but with careful expectations. Athletically, our team meets all the grading rubric checklists, but it always depends on the judges.”
Why the trepidations?
The Eagles haven’t had the best run at the state competition. Two years ago, according to Spallina, they performed a tight routine in the preliminaries, which resulted in a standing ovation from the crowd but the boot from the judges.
“We nailed our routine and bought lunch because we thought we’d be moving on to the next round,” Spallina said. “We were sent packing before the finals and we were so disappointed. The crowd clapped for us. People from upstate were asking us how did this happen? The crowd reaction was validating for the girls but still disappointing.”
Spallina said the squad could either give up or rev it up. The girls choose the latter, and last season the Eagles went undefeated in the county. But Suffolk boycotted the state meet that season, hoping its absence would prompt the state to alter the scoring rubric.
Changes in scoring were made, but Spallina and the squad still were cautious this season. The Eagles went undefeated again, performing their cleanest routine in program history and earning the highest scores in Suffolk and a ticket to the state meet.
And the team's hard work resulted in a championship.
“It’s a tradition,” Spallina said. “In 2012, we graduated some strong seniors and I remember thinking ‘How am I going to recover?’ but somehow, some way everyone who comes up makes it happen. Everyone understands the expectations and the demand of this program. They know the bar is set high and I hope every year we come back stronger than ever.”