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Mepham wins second straight cheerleading crown

Mepham High School's co-ed varsity cheerleading team poses

Mepham High School's co-ed varsity cheerleading team poses for a photo on Friday, March 7, 2014. The Pirates won its second straight state championship, held in February at Sullivan Community College in upstate Loch Sheldrake. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

The name of the game is entertainment and the Mepham co-ed cheerleading team has become masters.

The Pirates captured their second straight state championship last month at Sullivan Community College in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., amusing the judges and fans almost as much as they amused themselves.

"I think the most important part of it was the dancing," junior Kelly Cates said. And, she said, performing to Lady Gaga's "Applause" made it that much more fun.

"It's more about sharp motions," she said. "No noodle [floppy] arms. We had a single-based set instead of a regular stunt group, which has two bases. That was impressive."

Early in the competition, Mepham had six stunt or pyramid levels, the highest degree of difficulty, during its choreography set, instead of its usual five. That was kind of a "wow moment," Cates said, "because we had that down pat."

Another stunt it had down pat was the corkscrew, a move or twist in a spiral motion, with a little something extra. Instead of a typical cradle, where the base person catches the flier after tossing her in the air, the girls are in a heel stretch, before twisting to the ground.

In a heel stretch, a base holds up a flier, whose bent leg is held straight up with the flier's hand.

"I think our routine is more skill based. Other teams are a little more basic," co-captain Juliana Dijkstra said. "Right before we got on the mat, everyone knew who we were. We wanted to make sure we were on top and we did that in our last competition. We knew that this was our chance to prove to New York State that we deserve this title."

Mepham had something else before it got on the mat: Brandon Hall's motivational speeches and some dancing to go along with it from Austin Replogle and Johnny Breden.

"At first, I was quiet and I started to ask myself how I could make a strong contribution to the team," Hall said. "This was the perfect way to remind everyone to be confident in yourself and just have fun."

Nicole Kyriacou, who shares the coaching duties with her sister Jayna, said the boys add a "different feel. They kept everyone calm."

The coaches agreed with Dijkstra that the corkscrews and toss extensions helped put Mepham over the top.

"In terms of repeating, it was about having an entertaining, difficult routine," Nicole Kyriacou said. "The co-ed stunts we had were different from what the other teams were doing."

To Dijkstra, nothing was going to slow the Pirates.

"Teams came out harder against us this year," Dijkstra said. "We went out there knowing that anything is possible."

Having Dijkstra and co-captains Brianna Frobosilo and Cates as the nucleus of the team was huge.

"Juliana was right there for everyone at all times," Nicole Kyriacou said. "She always puts herself before the team. Everyone is like that. That's what brought us to the top."

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