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Sachem East wins Suffolk Large Varsity Division I cheerleading crown

Sachem East performs a stunt during the Suffolk

Sachem East performs a stunt during the Suffolk Cheerleading Championships on Saturday Feb. 20, 2016. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

For each cheerleader that took the mat at Longwood Saturday, the words written on the competition’s program resonated in a big way: “You are forever a part of history.”

For the cheerleaders from Sachem East, it was a dose of déjà vu.

Two weeks after making history by winning the program’s first national title in Orlando, the Flaming Arrows topped four other teams to capture the Large Varsity Division I title at the first Suffolk cheerleading championships.

“It’s been quite a month,” junior Justine McAuliffe said.

Varsity cheerleading was sanctioned by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association as a competitive sport last year, but had all the state rules and regulations implemented for the first time this winter season. With its win at the county tournament, Sachem East will reap the benefits: a trip to Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, site of the cheerleading state tournament on March 5.

“It means a lot for us and for our school,” junior Meghan VanEssendelft. “It’s something we’ll never forget. It’s such a proud moment to know that we were at the start of this, that we are the ones making history.”

So which was the bigger feat: winning the program’s first national title, or making local history?

“It’s kind of equal,” VanEssendelft said with a laugh. “We worked so hard for both.”

Added McAuliffe: “Whether it’s here or down in Florida, it’s just a different kind of great.”

Mount Sinai, the only Large Varsity Division II representative in Suffolk, mirrored Sachem East’s accomplishment, claiming a county championship yesterday after winning at the national tournament two weeks ago. The one difference between the Mustangs’ two titles: Will Gorman.

The senior cheerleader did not participate at the national tournament when Mount Sinai competed in an all-girls event, but Gorman has been on the mat when the team has competed on Long Island.

Gorman “adds an electricity to our team, a ‘wow’ factor,” coach Samantha Melella said.

“I did gymnastics for around eight years,” Gorman said, “and my cousin did cheerleading for Mount Sinai. She graduated in 2011, and after I stopped gymnastics, she convinced me to join cheerleading.

“This is my second year on varsity after I started on JV. Tryouts were a little awkward I guess, but they accepted me right away and we’ve all become very close.”

When the Mustangs vie for a state title in Syracuse, Gorman will be front and center.

“I’m excited to compete with my team at the first state tournament,” he said. “This is what it’s all about.”

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