SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The South Plainfield High School (S.P.H.S.) Fall Varsity Cheerleaders won 2nd Place in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) for their performance in the “Game Day” competition on Oct. 27 at Woodbridge High School. South Plainfield was up against ten teams competing to be GMC champs in the Game Day category.
“I am so proud of my team,” said Georgann Larsen, Head S.P.H.S. Cheer Coach. “It was so nice to see all of their hard work pay off. I am honored to be their coach. As I have said to them since July, always remember how amazing you are. And they showed how amazing they were at the competition.”
“As I said before the competition, I have high expectations and I know that they would meet those expectations, and I was right!” said Assistant S.P.H.S. Cheer Coach Andrea Garcia. “I’m really proud of the girls.”
The 2019 Varsity Cheerleaders who competed in the GMC Competition included: Kaitlyn Baskiewicz, Maria Callanan, Marissa Castagna, Lia Cataldo, Jessica Craggan, Robert Cesareo (mascot), Jayla Greer, Riley Griffin, Vivian Huynh, Madison Karcher, Zoe Lambert (captain), Xenia Lambert, Melissa Leon-Tamara, Katelyn Luster, Briana Manz, Molly Manz, Danielle McParland (captain), Jocelyn Mortensen, Shannon Rose O’Flaherty, Nicole O’Sullivan, Hailey Palmer, Jenna Sacco, Isabella Saffold, Mikayla Santiago, Brielle Stankan (captain), Arianna Waldron.
“The way that we all went out there the day of GMCs, everyone was so positive and I couldn’t thank everyone more for that,” said Co-Captain Brielle Stankan, senior. “Going into a competition, everyone is so nervous, but we all came together as a team. We just truly love each other, and we performed as a team, not just as individuals. It really helped my confidence and everyone else’s.”
South Plainfield was one of ten teams in their category to perform the Game Day routine at the competition.
“Every time I step out on the mat, I always get butterflies,” said Jocelyn Mortensen, junior. “But as soon as I hit the mat at GMCs, I’m felt so confident in my team and myself that I knew no matter how I felt or how anybody else felt, that we were going to give our all. We gave it everything we had and it showed.”
The cheerleaders were judged on their ability to engage the audience. Game day routines are high energy routines that include a time out cheer, band chant dance, or sideline cheer.
“I think overall, the day was something huge for us because I really felt the teamwork in the moment,” said Nicole O’Sullivan, junior. “Before we went on the mat, we were just ready to give it our all and I really could tell we gave our hearts on the mat.”
“I feel like after it was over, we just all knew that it was going to be a good thing,” said Kaitlyn Baskiewicz, junior. “There was so much power as we all went out, we just knew.”
The criteria used to score the cheerleaders is based on overall performance, execution of their routine, crowd engagement, and energy.
“As a team, we all knew what we were doing, and we were all ready,” said Jessica Craggan, freshman. “When we were on the mat, everyone just knew that we were ready to kick butt. And we really did leave our hearts on the mat after that performance because we all really tried hard. In practices, we were all struggling with the stunts and the stunts were solid at GMCs.”
“I feel like as we went onto the mat, I saw from the back, everyone’s energy levels were really high and intense,” said Hailey Palmer, junior. “On a personal level, after we performed the routine, I felt dizzy, and I was so nauseous because I gave it my all out there.”
“When we went out there to perform, even when we came into the bus, we knew what we had to do,” said Melissa Leon-Tamara, freshman. “We had put so much time and effort into the routine. When we went on, I knew I had to put all my energy into it, so I did and you can ask anybody, I was napping the whole time after. It was really nice that we went out there and gave it our all.”
The Game Day routine included the Tiger’s mascot, Robert Cesareo.
“I’ve been the team mascot for two years now,” said Cesareo. “If anybody knew me before I did mascot, I was pretty much nobody, now I’m somebody to some people and that’s enough for me. This team has really propelled me.”
The cheerleaders speak highly of their coaches, attributing much of their work ethic and success to the strong group of women leading them.
“Our coaches really pushed us and I’m glad they did because it got us to the point where we are,” said Brianna Manns, sophomore. “I could not be happier with our placement, honestly, because we worked so hard together as a team and our coaches just made everything better for us. They pushed us to limits that I thought we were never going to be able to reach and we did. And I’m so happy for it.”
“This year, the coaches made it very clear that it was a year of change and I think that really shows in our GMC routine and our performance because it’s something that we had never done before,” said Katelyn Luster, junior. “It was definitely the best performance that we’ve ever had here.”
“I don’t think that we could have any better coaches than ours,” said Jayla Greer, sophomore. “Our routine definitely paid off so as many times as Coach Garcia repeated herself on instructions on how to do the routine and as many times as we walked out of practice with our heads down, I think that everything definitely paid off.”
“I want to thank my coaching staff for all of their hard work and dedication,” said Larsen. “Coach Garcia, Coach Liz and Coach Kim are devoted to this team and are amazing.”
At the GMCs, many recalled the moments before they were called as the cheerleaders sat on the mat they had performed on during the presentation of awards. Each place was called, until they reached the final three.
“The best part of the day was during awards we were all sitting in a circle and when they announced us, the look on the coaches faces was amazing,” said Arianna Waldron, sophomore. “They were so happy!”
“When they said South Plainfield as runner-up,” said Larsen. “I was beaming as a coach. I was so happy my heart was just beating so fast.”
Many on the S.P.H.S. Cheerleading Squad say the team worked well together and remained focused throughout the season.
“I’m really proud of each and every member of this team for going out there and doing their job because everyone did what they were supposed to do,” said Co-Captain Zoe Lambert. “And they did it well. It shows in our placement, so I’m really proud of everyone and I love them all.”
“I think that every single person on this team played a big role in this routine and without one person, it wouldn’t be the same,” said Co-Captain Danielle McParland, senior. “I love all of them.”
“It’s been a great season overall,” said Assistant Coach Andrea Garcia. “They’re a good group of girls, and we’ll miss the seniors a lot. Your captains, your leaders are always going to play a big part in how a team performs.”
Seniors performed in the GMC competition for the final time that day.
“Throughout all four years that I’ve been cheering on this fall team, I feel like no team has been as dedicated to working on GMCs,” said Co-Captain Zoe Lambert, senior. “I really feel that our hard work paid off in the end.”
“I couldn’t be happier than to be on a team with these people my last year because I feel the most prepared this year compared to every other year,” said Stankan. “I’m so excited to be able to finish out my high school career with them.”
The S.P.H.S. cheerleaders closed the fall season with feelings of accomplishment after devoting themselves to a sport they truly have put their hearts into.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Kim Baskiewicz, Volunteer Cheer Coach. “They worked hard this season, they gave it more than their all and it showed.”
“Hard work does pay off, to be second out of ten teams is a major accomplishment for the team and the school,” said Liz Rullis, Volunteer Cheer Coach. “This team put South Plainfield’s name on the GMC’s Cheer map for the first time ever. They should be proud of themselves. Thank you to all our families and students who came to support the girls and cheer them on.”
“I truly think that they deserved more then placing second last weekend,” said Cesareo. “Obviously, we didn’t get that, but in my heart, they will always deserve more. I think this was a great way to end out the season of my high school career because I’m truly going to miss this part of my life.”
“Walking out the day of GMCs and seeing an entire stand of parents standing up and supporting us, feeling all the support from not only our own parents, but our own coaches and our teammates, made it an even more rewarding experience,” said Vivian Huynh, junior.
“We felt that no matter how we did and what we left on the mat, we had an entire town behind us, supporting what we do every Friday night and on GMCs especially.”