EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – They may not have won the Super Bowl, but some of Eastchester’s peppiest athletes took a victory trip to Disney World on Monday after the varsity cheer team made it to the finals at the UCA Nationals Competition.
The cheerleading squad made history over the weekend, as they became the first team in school history to advance to the national finals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, earning the 18th ranking in the country as hundreds of schools competed over two days.
Although the program has been around for more than a decade, this is the first year the district distinguished cheerleading as an “official school sport,” that has its own budget.
Head Coach Samantha Kearns said that the team has been close before, reaching the semifinals four times in the last nine years, but this is the first time the cheer squad earned a spot in the finals. She said that reaching the finals is something that the program has been building toward for years.
“Our goal has always been finals, and our alumni constantly come back to remind the current teams of our program’s goal. We finally achieved it this year,” she said from the Happiest Place on Earth.
“We achieved it, not only as a result of the tireless effort and commitment of the current athletes, but also as a result of a group of athletes over the years who believe in each other. “
While Kearns was quick to credit assistant coaches Stephanie Leone, who actually started the program 15 years ago and alumni Sandra Tamburro, parents of the student-athletes have praised the head coach’s dedication to her sport and team.
“Samantha Kearns, the varsity coach, continues to be a dedicated and passionate coach with a true love of the sport,” Colleen Gleason, whose daughter is a sophomore on the squad, said. “Her positive energy and clear instructions helped the girls build their skill and grow to love this sport more and more.”
Led by senior captains Courtney Flynn, Nicole LaRocca and Samantha Benvenga, Kearns said that the routine they pulled off at the competition was their hardest to date and they are nearly flawless. With expectations raised, she said she hopes to crack the top 10 next year.
Although the trophies are nice and the accolades exciting, Kearns noted that she hoped that her team learned some life lessons on their road to the finals.
In all, the best lesson is working toward a goal, some of these girls working toward it for six years,” Kearns added. “They never gave up and that is a life lesson that will never be forgotten.”
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