The terms “counties” and “states” have been added to the high school cheerleading vernacular in New York State, and with them has come a shift in disposition. Finally, the newly sanctioned sport is being recognized for all the diligence, skill and focus it demands from its participants.
Though in Rocky Point, this disposition has existed for quite some time.
For the Eagles — who won the Small Varsity Division I title at the inaugural Suffolk cheerleading championships at Longwood Saturday — it begins with the efforts of 24th-year coach Anna Spallina, continues with the unwavering support of athletic director Amy Agnesini and is anchored by the passionate Rocky Point community. As far as they are concerned, cheerleading has been a sport for decades.
“They’ve always had our backs,” senior Claire Johannesen said, “and treated us like every other sport.”
Collectively, this support has provided the foundation for a dynasty at Rocky Point. The Eagles have won three national titles since 2010, and placed second at the national tournament in Orlando two weeks ago. Still, yesterday’s win will always maintain a special place in each of their memories.
“It’s truly an honor to be on the first team to win a county title,” Johannesen said. “It is really cool to finally be officially recognized just the same as everybody else.”
Smithtown East placed second in the event. Smithtown West, Hauppauge and Comsewogue rounded out the top five.
With such a winning tradition behind them, the Eagles move with a noticeably heightened swagger on competition days. They are the first to get settled in the gym, focused and determined. They come onto the mat in synchronized fashion. And when the music to their routine starts, they execute with precision.
“We’re definitely held to a higher standard by our coaches because there is such a winning legacy here,” senior Brittney Ferrari said. “Cheerleading has been such a big part of the Rocky Point community for so many years. We expect to go out and hit our routine every time.”
Added senior Courtney Kelly: “We come in here and we do our job. We don’t worry about anyone else. We’re only concerned with what we have to do, as individuals, as a team. We don’t worry about the final result until it comes.”
Ultimately, the culture at Rocky Point has led to a motto that can be seen in the biography of the team’s twitter account, @RPvarsitycheer: “Faith over fear.”
“This sport is very mental, even more so than physical,” Kelly said, “and if you put fear in front of your fate, a lot of things can go wrong. But if you have a lot of faith in yourself, faith in the person next to you and faith in the entire team, everything’s going to work out the way it needs to.
“That’s what we do here. We believe in each other.”