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Wantagh wins inaugural cheerleading championship

Wantagh poses after winning the Nassau cheerleading championships

Wantagh poses after winning the Nassau cheerleading championships at Wantagh on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

The walls of Wantagh High School’s main gymnasium are adorned with black and gold banners, homages to county-winners past. Sunday, underneath these banners, the Warriors team performed so brilliantly — and in an event that was the first of its kind — that athletic director Jennifer Keane is determined to raise a new one.

“Now that cheerleading is an official sport,” Keane said, “there will definitely be a new banner.”

History was made as the cheerleaders from Wantagh won the Small Varsity Division I title in front of their home crowd at the inaugural Nassau cheerleading championships. MacArthur and Freeport also performed well and finished second and third, respectively.

“Cheerleading is finally starting to get recognized, which is great” Allyson Ottomano said. “It means a lot to know that we are a part of this history.”

The team’s performance was executed in stellar fashion — “stunning, a perfect routine,” as eighth-year coach Jenna Schwartz described it. And even if you missed the routine itself, you could judge just how well it went from the Wantagh cheerleaders’ electric reaction as soon as their music stopped.

“Once it was over,” Samantha Paul said, “we just knew that we did exactly what we had to do. It was amazing.”

Varsity cheerleading is in its first year under state rules and regulations. With their county championship, the Warriors have taken advantage: They earned a trip to the first state tournament at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse on March 5. Clarke (Small II), Plainedge (Large I), Bethpage (Large II) and Valley Stream North (Co-Ed Division) also secured their trips upstate on Sunday.

“This sport is just crazy because you have only two minutes and thirty seconds to perform, and you get one shot,” Schwartz said. “And if you don’t do it perfectly, that’s it. But when you get out there on the mat and perform like they did today, when they just did everything perfectly, I could just not have asked for anything more.

“I’m so proud of them. These girls deserve to have their names in the history books. They deserve a new banner.”

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