ORLANDO, FL— Third-year head varsity coach and former Mahopac cheerleader Kailyn Riefenhauser never got to experience the thrill of competing at a National cheerleading competition.
Her 2016-2017 squad changed that by making the school’s first Nationals appearance since 2011-2012 in Orlando, Fla. from Feb. 9-13.
“Being on that mat in front of thousands of people was an amazing feeling,” senior cheerleader Alexis Scarnati said. “I’m so grateful that I had the chance to be a part of that.”
Although they only performed at semifinals, the girls stayed at Disney World resort together and competed on Saturday, Feb. 11, against teams from coast to coast.
“It was definitely worth the experience,” Riefenhauser said. “The girls all had a great time and it was exciting for their first time to see what they could do. They are ready to go back next year.”
Upon qualifying for the bid to the Nationals competition on Dec. 10 at regionals in Long Island, the Indians made the most out of their four-day trip. They enjoyed the resorts of Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
“Together as a team, they have gotten stronger,” Riefenhauser said. “They spent four days together and didn’t even get sick of each other. This is a really good group of girls and they are fun to be around.”
A snowstorm did not allow them to return to Mahopac until 4 a.m. on Feb. 14.
Yorktown High School’s cheerleading team also reached Nationals this year, as the two neighboring districts rooted each other on throughout the affair after practicing the same morning on the All-Star Sports Resort field.
It was the finishing touch to Mahopac’s productive campaign full of excitement and success. It placed within the top-three slots in four meets this season, including a first-place showing at New Rochelle on Dec. 3.
Scarnati, who plans to major in early childhood education at Iona College next year, will certainly miss much about wearing the Indians uniform.
“It was truly an honor to win grand champs competing against all the amazing teams in Section 1,” Scarnati said. “Trying out for cheerleading in the eighth grade was the best decision of my life. Throughout my career, I have achieved things that I thought I never could. I’m so grateful to have a coach like Kailyn who helped me achieve all of my goals and make me the cheerleader I am today.”
Hosting its own competition of 29 teams from both Sections 1 and 9 at the high school on Jan. 14, the team raised sufficient funds for its trip to Florida.
“We have a young team that is growing,” Riefenhauser said. “They are a tumbling team, which is kind of new for Mahopac. But in the past few years, we have had the majority tuck instead.”
Not finished yet, the Indians wrapped up a progressive season with a sectional competition held at White Plains High School.
“This team continues to surprise me every day,” senior cheerleader Kara DiGregorio said. “We’ve come such a long way and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone’s accomplishments. The girls on this team are very hard workers and we also motivate each other to be the best that we can be.”
Similar to last season, the underclassmen-heavy Indians will attend UCA camp this August in Pennsylvania to prepare for a repeat. Open gym already kicks off in late April, as Mahopac will get ready for cheerleading season once again.
“The most memorable part about my high school career would be cheering at football games and listening to the heartwarming speeches that the girls made for the seniors,” DiGregorio said.