SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – When Georgeann Larsen started the high school’s competition cheering squad in 1999, she had little doubt the team would be successful. But little did she know that two years later it would become national co-ed champs.
Fast forward to 2014, and Larsen is back coaching another competition team after taking some time off, and the squad is once again seen as a cheering powerhouse. But one things remains elusive: a first-place state championship.
The team, which Larsen calls one of the best she’s coached, has had a string of second-place finishes this year, coming just shy of winning first place. Out of five competitions, the team placed second in four—missing first by five-tenths of a point at a Woodbridge completion and by four points at competitions in Clifton and Holmdel.
This week the team heads to the state championships, where it will compete against 16 other teams on Sunday. “We’re hoping we come home with first place,” said Larsen when talking about the team’s chances. “South Plainfield has never won first place in the states. We’ve come in fifth and sixth.”
Larsen graduated from SPHS in 1989. She started coaching fall and winter cheering in 1991, and she’s been working in cheering in one capacity or another most of the time since. Larsen credited her assistant coaches, Maria Sottiriou and Wendy Donato, for the squad’s success.
This year’s team, according to Larsen, has the ability to grab a state title for the first time. “The girls have really bonded this year,” she said when asked about the team’s chances. “They stepped onto the mat as a team from the first competition.”
The squad performs what Larsen calls a high-impact two-and-a-half-minute routine. The girls write their own cheers, using words they think are meaningful. The routine ends with a pyramid and the song “Eye of the Tiger.”
When asked about Sunday’s competition and the possibility of getting the first-place finish that has eluded the team so far this year, Larsen said she thinks it could happen. “The girls are coming into their own and are stronger than they’ve ever been,” she said. “It’s going to be an exciting day.”