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Sachem East finishes third in state cheerleading championship

Sachem East (Suffolk -- Section XI) competed in

Sachem East (Suffolk -- Section XI) competed in Large Varsity Division I during the NYSPHSAA Cheerleading Championship Tournament held at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY. Photo Credit: John Berry / John Berry

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Michala Szatkowski used two words to sum up Sachem East’s third-place finish among Division I Large schools Saturday at New York State’s first cheerleading state championship.

Disappointed. Upset.

But Szatkowski, a junior, quickly shifted gears as she reflected on the Flaming Arrows’ historic season.

“We had seven wins in a row and that’s amazing,” Szatkowski said. “We’ve done so good for Sachem East that this one loss doesn’t define who we are.”

In that streak of seven first-place finishes, Sachem East earned the first national and county championships in program history.

“There was a lot of pressure because of that,” Szatkowski said.

Said sophomore Julie Bentley, “We wanted to do it for the seniors, do it for the coaches, do it for everybody else, including ourselves.”

The Flaming Arrows understood how significant a state title would be, for the program and the school.

“I know our athletic director (Peter Blieberg) was really looking forward to this and was really hoping that we would get that state title and bring it home to them,” Szatkowski said. “We definitely felt the pressure, but (after hearing the results) we were also like, ‘It’s OK. We know we had a good season.’”

The Flaming Arrows challenged themselves with a difficult routine. As national champions, they had the confidence and expectations to execute it.

“Difficulty-wise, there was no other team that put out the difficulty that they did,” coach Christina Lotito said. “We keep trying to have them focus on that, focus on all the good stuff that happened throughout the season.”

That message has been received.

“We’re proud of ourselves,” Bentley said. “We made Sachem East history.”

But more history can be made, and Sachem East’s experience at the first state championship will only heighten the motivation for next year’s team.

“Next year we’re going to come back hard for this,” Szatkowski said. “It’s definitely going to put a fire under (us) because we’re going to want it 10 times more. Knowing that we won nationals also lets us ease off, like it’s OK that we didn’t win states, but we’ll get them next year.”

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