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Wantagh cheerleading hoping to make noise at state championships

Wantagh performs during the Nassau cheerleading championships at

Wantagh performs during the Nassau cheerleading championships at Wantagh on Feb. 25. Credit: James Escher

Syracuse may be experiencing a severe snowstorm, but that isn’t stopping Long Island cheerleading teams from making the trek to the state championship tournament there on Saturday.

Freeport, Wantagh, East Meadow, Seaford and Calhoun will all be competing at the third annual event, whose start was pushed back from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. because of winter storm conditions.

Wantagh has made it to the state championships since it’s inception. Last year, they placed second in Small Division I, the highest finish of all the Long Island teams. The Warriors have moved down a division, because of school size but they’re still looking for that number one spot.

“In the beginning of the season, we hit a few speed bumps,” coach Matt Schneyer said. “As soon as we started to click, it was like a well-oiled machine. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

Seaford placed fourth in Large Division II last year. The Vikings have 12 new girls on the mat and they are all prepared to move up in the rankings.

“We’re hoping to go down there and really get it done,” coach Lisa Ferrari said. “Last year, we thought we deserved better, so this year we’re focused on cleaning up our routine and making sure we’re perfect.”

East Meadow and Calhoun are also making their second appearance in Large Division I and Coed, respectively. Neither team made it out of the preliminary rounds last year but both teams agreed that isn’t happening this year.

“The two things I’ve been telling the girls is that they have to perform and execute,” East Meadow coach Tara Shannon said. “They have to execute all the skills and perform every inch of the routine. As long as we keep striving for those two things, it’ll be a great time at states.”

The Freeport squad will continue making history as they make their first appearance at the state championship in Small Division I. They had a great run at Nationals, are county champs for the first time and now they are ready for states.

“We’ve been hitting well for the past two months and now we just have to clean it up,” coach Laurie Kolodny said. “We had a goal to be Nationals ready, then counties ready and now we’re going to be state ready.”

Before the start of the season, Section XI and Suffolk coaches unanimously voted to not participate in the state championship this year, citing the different judging rules as one main reason.

Nassau, while weary of the judging, has hope that this year the rule changes will be reflected in a positive way.

“Cheerleading as a sport in New York is still in the infancy stages,” Nassau cheerleading coordinator Jennifer Keane said. “The biggest challenge is to find a way to combine the different styles of cheer across the state and judge them equally and fairly. [Cheerleading] continues to grow and change and at this time, while things are still not exactly where we would like them to be we did not want to withdraw from the state championship.”

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