Cheerleaders compete in their own championship

Many think of the PHS cheerleading team solely as another component of the football team, cheering at its games and hanging up inspirational posters in the hallway. It is often forgotten that the team also competes in its own annual competition.

Coached by Jennifer Petruso and Shari Allen, the girls recently competed in the CVC All-Girl Mega Varsity Cheer/Dance Division. In a move away from previous years’ tradition, the team is also debating competing in multiple other competitions this year. As one of these competitions would be the New Jersey Cheerleading & Dance Coaches Association State Competition, which does not take place until March 2, the girls are thinking of extending their season through winter, and hope each girl will extend her commitment as well.

“Our main goal is to get through November and to work as hard as we can with what we have after that,” said Co-Captain Fiona Farrell ’14. As participation on multiple sports teams at one time is not allowed, the girls are unsure of whether they will be able to continue practicing through the winter.

In order to prepare for their competitions, the captains instituted a number of reforms. “We’ve had more practice time … [We practice] four or five days a week for two or three hours,” said Farrell. The team focused on more advanced tumbling, lifting, and other stunts and, according to the captains, has been using the extended practice time to build its endurance.

“We started doing our [competition routines] at the games for half-time,” said Co-Captain Grace DiSimoni ’14.

One problem stemming from the additional practice time, according to the captains, was attitude. “It’s hard to have each person at each practice for the whole time [and] to have each person in the right state of mind and attitude to work [her] hardest,” said Farrell.

“The largest challenge would be … practicing things over and over again,” said DiSimoni. The majority of the girls had little to no cheerleading experience prior to joining the team; only two girls on the team have cheered competitively before, and a few have been involved in some kind of dance or gymnastics. For the ones with experience, patience was occasionally an issue. “It [can] be harder for [girls with experience] to [wait for the others to] learn new things,” said Farrell.

Despite these issues, the team was hopeful going into its annual end of the season November 16 competition. “Counting my three years, I think this is one of our [strongest],” said DiSimoni.

The captains wanted to place higher than third place in their annual competition this year, as they did in 2010. To do this, Farrell said the team was trying to emulate its preparation for the 2010 competition. “My freshman year, we placed first in our division, [so] this year, like three years ago, we [did] a lot of things [in terms of endurance and practice] early in the season that we [didn’t do as early] last year,” she said.

Although the girls are unsure of their exact place in the division, as only first placed is announced, they were content with their performance.

“I believe that we did the best we [could], especially under the circumstances we were faced with,” said Susannah Martilla ’15. With a concussion, broken foot, and injured hand sidelining several of the cheerleaders, Martilla said she was impressed with how well her team made adjustments.

Although the girls may have been able to place better under different circumstances, with the possibility of more competitions on the horizon, the girls may have another opportunity to prove they are just as good of a team as they were in 2010.