WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The Somers cheerleading squad won the Westchester County Cheerleading Invitational at the County Center Jan. 23. Competing in the mixed division, the 20-member team —including James LaRocca— finished first among the four teams competing.
“The team has come a long way,” coach Jenna Crispo said.
At the helm in her third year, she said the team barely got off their feet when she started.
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“I started from the ground,” said Crispo. “We took whoever we could—even those with low cheerleading experience or athletic ability.”
Nonetheless, she’s proud of how those original kids have stayed on and taken flight in the last three years.
“They’ve really worked their way up,” said Crispo.
Going into the fall season, Crispo said she knew the potential was there and that some extra work would help them reach the next level. The team went to a three-day cheerleading camp in October, where they began to develop an original routine based on their strengths as a team.
Back home, the level of difficulty advanced in practice, and a choreographer helped evolve the two and half minute routine.
“What we were doing early on is way different than what we are doing now,” said Crispo.
Of course, there is no better motivator than competition, and the team really turned over after first taking to the mat competitively.
“There were stunts that were failing in practice which we were hitting,” main base Brianna Scottino said. “So I knew we had the potential to do anything.”
Reaching those heights, though, requires a team connection that goes beyond providing help defense in basketball or backing up first base, she said.
“You definitely need to have a great bond in order to put all your trust in your bases, especially when you’re falling from such a high elevation,” said the All-County cheerleader.
The addition of LaRocca three years ago, who at the time has no experience, proved not to be a downfall either. Winning the Annette Hroncich Cheer scholarship, Crispo said, “He has become the face of Somers Cheerleading.”
Scottino sees the fit in a more exacting fashion.
“He’s like a puzzle piece that has helped us put this all together.”
Scottino, who won the top score award at the WPDRCC Fall Conference Championships in November.
The payoff began when Somers won a two-team competition in September. But the All-Section Conference Championships at Hen Hud proved a better judge of their ability. “We came in first for our co-ed division,” said Crispo.
The team is excited about their achievements.
“I was very excited to get that banner. The kids wanted one,” said Crispo. “I definitely wanted one, and it’s fun to see it up in our gym.”
But more importantly, winning allowed the Tuskers to see where they stacked up at the next level.
“Moving into winter,” said Crispo, “we started off in a regional competition for the whole northeast.”
Unfortunately, Somers did not qualify for the Nationals in Orlando but the team used the bigger stage to redirect their efforts.
“We said, ‘let’s focus on our local goals,’” said Crispo.
Somers went on to capture second place at North Rockland’s cheerleading tournament and then won tournaments at Eastchester and Mahopac High Schools. So the springboard was in place for winning its four team division at the County Center.
Once again, winning meant the squad got to see how they stacked up against better competition, and just because Somers did not place among 35 teams at the Invitational, doesn’t mean they feel it was a loss.
“The big thing for us is we got to go to the championship rounds,” said Crispo.
With the formula in place, she hopes the experience provides another springboard that leads to a State Tournament berth in March.