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First-place cheers go to Smithtown East, followed by Rocky Point

Smithtown East's cheerleaders perform at Sachem North High

Smithtown East's cheerleaders perform at Sachem North High School, Lake Ronkonkoma, New York on Sunday Jan. 31, 2016. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

The hum from all the commotion inside the Sachem North gymnasium could be heard in the parking lot. In the hallways, cheers and shouts became audible. Once you stepped inside the gym, the wave of energy finally hit you, as if you had just walked into the Super Bowl.

And the cheerleaders still were only in warm-ups.

This electric atmosphere is the status quo for competitive cheerleading, even at 9 a.m., the start time for an 11-team competition in Small Varsity Suffolk Division I on Sunday.

Smithtown East won the event with a 100.3. Rocky Point (94.6), Sachem North (90.1), North Babylon (89.55) and East Islip (88.25) rounded out the top five.

If you missed your morning cup of coffee, these athletes provided a fine substitute for your caffeine kick.

Smithtown East, loudest of them all, was less than 24 hours removed from a subpar performance in an event the Bulls hosted Saturday. But “it didn’t hold them back,” coach Elizabeth Schlitt said. “It pushed them forward.”

“Sometimes you need bumps in the road to refocus,” junior Samantha Mattei said. “I think we needed it.”

This wasn’t an instance in which the Bulls went to bed, turned the page and forgot Saturday ever happened. They owned it.

“You still carry it around with you,” junior Kelly Brown said, “because sometimes you need the bad ones to kind of remember we are a team, we stick together.”

Added senior Sarah Mensch: “You have to just know that if something goes wrong, it’s just a small part of something great. You have to keep pushing even if something does go wrong.”

For Sachem North, things went drastically wrong Friday when one prominent cheerleader came down with an illness.

“We literally had 12 hours to completely change the routine,” coach Brie Carlen said.

So Carlen called up eighth-grader Ashley Davison from junior varsity — “It was scary, but also really exciting,” Davison said — and the team used its practice on Saturday to adjust accordingly.

“It was pretty hard, trying to change everything at the last minute,” junior Alexa Pinnavaia said, “but we came out and had one of our best performances of the year.”

A last-minute audible pushed the Bulls’ trust in one another into the spotlight.

“They realized that they had to pull together,” said junior Barbara Leigh Petillo, who cheered on her teammates from the sideline with a shoulder injury. “It was special to watch, and really, what they did today is what cheerleading is all about.”

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