Sachem East cheerleaders win the first session of a Suffolk Division...

Sachem East cheerleaders win the first session of a Suffolk Division I small teams competition at Smithtown West on Saturday. Credit: /Andrew Theodorakis

When the Sachem East cheerleaders first take to the mat, there’s no music that follows. 

The speakers at the DJ booth work just fine. This squad wants to open with their own sound. 

Typically, the opening of a cheerleading routine consists of tumbling and stunts along to music. But Sachem East wanted to prove it was anything but typical this season, instead opting to open the routine with their high-energy cheer.

“We want to get the crowd pumped up right away,” senior Erika Palermo said. “We focus on bringing the energy and making sure we’re ‘Sachem Strong.’ That’s what we represent in our cheer and that’s what we want to be known as.”

The squad conquered the floor Saturday as it secured its fourth consecutive first place title with a score of 89.3 in the first session of the Division I small schools competition at Smithtown West. Hauppauge placed second (87.9) and Ward Melville finished third (83.5). 

“This year, we did something different and started our routine with the cheer,” coach Brianna Aghabekian said. “A lot of teams at [the] UCA [National High School Cheerleading Championship] are leading with the cheer and we wanted to become the first team on the island to do it.” 

“We [as coaches] love it because we feel like it helps [the girls] get their nerves out,” said coach Victoria Aghabekian, Brianna’s twin sister. 

When the music began, Sachem East put out an impressive set of tumbling passes and stunts. Eighth grader Kacey Berger shined with a flawless execution of an Arabian through to a full twist across the mat.  

“The younger girls are so strong and have so much talent,” senior Brianna Snyder said. “It’s such an amazing feeling to experience this winning streak with them and know that they’ll be able to continue it.” 

In the second session of the Division I small schools competition, the East Islip squad clinched its first win of the season with a score of 88.1 over Smithtown East (85.3) and Riverhead (83.4).

“After consistently placing close to or in the top three at previous showings, we wanted to prove to ourselves our hard work would paid off,” senior Lauren Holmes said. “That’s exactly what we did.”

East Islip had more work to put in than expected as the squad faced the challenge of adapting to last minute changes to the pyramid two days before the competition. 

“At first, it’s definitely a little discouraging and stressful,” junior Kaylee Wilko said. “But we know that every one of us is fully capable of doing what we need to do. We have full confidence in one another.” 

“I think that being open to change is what helped us come through as a team and the reason that we were still able to put on the best performance today,” Riley Kramer said. 

“Those challenges really brought us together,” senior Sofia Costarelli said. “They made us closer as a team, more than we’ve ever been. That bond we have is the reason why we are holding this plaque today.” 

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