For the Hillsborough Junior Raiders Varsity, Junior Varsity and Biddy cheerleading squads, netting top honors at a competition in Perth Amboy was something to cheer about.
The recreation cheer teams saw each level place in its division at competitions last weekend, securing two first place wins and a second place win. In addition, the Junior Raiders Junior Varsity squad’s routine snagged the competition’s Grand Champion trophy for having the best overall performance.
“All the squads did well against some pretty tough competition,” Maria Marnell, a coach for the Junior Raiders’ Junior Varsity squad, said. “You go into every season with high hopes, but the girls were thrilled that day. It meant a lot to them.”
“It was a surprise, but we worked really hard,” Alexa Volpe, a cheerleader on the varsity squad, said. “It makes us want to you out and try harder the next week.”
The teams, which cater to girls from third to eighth grade, compete from October to December, often logging two competitions per weekend. Preparation for the competitions begins in August, when the girls undergo a three-week choreography camp to learn their routines.
Then, it’s on to twice-a-week practices, where the squads refine their skills—or add new ones to the routines. It’s the combination of practices and competitions that brings each squad together.
“At the beginning of the season, we start with 26 individuals,” Lisa Visco, another Junior Varsity team coach, said. “We end with the team.”
“They really take that to heart,” Marnell added. “At this age you can run into tween angst. They work well together and play well together.”
With four more competitions left in the season, it’s more hard work for the girls and their coaches—but that’s part of the reason the teams love cheering.
“I think it’s safe to say that all the coaches go into it for the joy of working with the girls and the love of the sport,” Christy Kanaby, one of the Varsity coaches, said. “If we’re able to accomplish these goals, that adds to it.”
“I think it’s going to go well because now we’re more determined to get a grand champion,” Jessica Rapolas, from the Varsity squad, said. “It’s motivating. I know I’m looking forward to more wins and hopefully another grand champion.”