Wantagh competes in the state cheerleading championships at the SRC...

Wantagh competes in the state cheerleading championships at the SRC Arena & Events Center in Syracuse. Credit: Heather Ainsworth

Wantagh faced its toughest task of the season during the week leading up to the NYS Cheerleading Championship.

The Warriors, making their third trip to the state championship, had to change their routine to fit state’s judging rubric.

They altered it and achieved second place for the second year in a row, this time in Small Division II.

“Our practices were a lot longer before states,” Brenda Martin said. “It wasn’t about learning the routine it was about perfecting it . . . I couldn’t have asked for a better performance.”

While the Nassau judging rubric follows the state guidelines, the meet upstate is different then ones on the Island, requiring more flash and pizzazz.

The Warriors gave them that and more, performing stunts such as high-to-highs and three-quarter round ups, maneuvers that max out the difficulty rubric.

“Our routine happened the way we wanted it to and we’re really proud of the way it came out,” Caitie Magner said. “We knew whether we were first or second that we’d be proud of our season. We hit our routine perfectly.”

Seaford also struggled in practices leading up the event. Because of the weather, which delayed the state meet, all practices were canceled to be fair to those who couldn’t make it. In the struggle to get upstate, the Vikings didn’t practice the night before.

None of this stopped Seaford from reaching the finals for the second year in a row, this time placing fifth in Large Division II.

“The warmup before the prelims was not our best,” said Anna Gagliano. “We pulled it together of course, and when they announced we made it to the finals, as a captain, I felt as if it was one step closer to our goals.”

Seaford added more jumps but ultimately left the routine the same. Their routine had a few bobbles but still included difficult stunts.

“Placing fifth in the state might not be first, but knowing we gave it all we got was the best feeling and to end my cheer life at states will be an unforgettable memory,” Gagliano said.

Freeport is having an unforgettable season of “firsts.” They are first time county champs and earned their ticket to the state championship for the first time.

Not only did they make it, but the placed fifth in Small Division I.

“We were in awe,” Erin Dean said. “Every goal we set for our team, we’ve made come true. The next goal after counties was to make it to state and do well and we did just that.”

Freeport also added a few moves to their routine. Aside from two tumbling touchdowns, Freeport stuck all of their stunts.

Wantagh placed highest out of the Nassau contingent. East Meadow and Calhoun, both making their second appearance in states, did not make it to the finals.

Wantagh, Seaford and Freeport equally agree that finding a comfortable balance between the state and Nassau judging is proving to be difficult.

Compared with first-place winner Avon, from Section V, Wantagh earned higher points for stunt difficulty and cheer but scored their lowest points in dance and motion, the portion of the state rubric that is different than Nassau’s.

Both teams scored the same in pyramid difficulty.

For now, the teams will have to forget about their judging woes and celebrate their placing.

“It was a little disappointing because our goal was to win,” Martin said. “This team exceeded my expectations . . . our performance was amazing and flawless.”