South Windsor Cheerleading Obtains Huge Achievement for Program With Divisional Championship

SOUTH WINDSOR-The South Windsor High School cheerleading program entered the 2017-18 season as a very young team, and one that has not won any division or conference championship in seven or eight seasons. While the program expected to continue to improve this season, the Bobcats winning a CCC East Division championship would be a huge surprise. Well, South Windsor cheerleading made that hope a reality at the CCC Conference Championships.

At the CCC Conference Championships on Saturday the 17th, South Windsor earned a huge accomplishment for the program by winning the CCC East. The Bobcats defeated East Catholic, East Hartford, Enfield, E.O. Smith, Manchester, RHAM and Tolland.

Following a grueling 7-month season of practicing and cheering at games and one competition at Windsor at the beginning of the month, South Windsor has finally developed a high quality 2:30 long routine that showcases its most outstanding skills. Head coach Amanda Turley and her cheerleaders were highly confident that if the Bobcats perform to the best of their capabilities, they would win the divisional championship and maintain that success in the state competition.

“This year we were looking for the divisional win, but we’d love to be contenders for grand champions sometime in the future,” Turley said. “This was a big win for us, and grand champs would be a huge step up from that, so right now we’re focusing on finding attainable short term goals to keep pushing us toward that bigger, long-term goal.”

Turley added, “I can speak for myself in saying that it feels really special to have my first group of freshman finish out their senior year with a CCC’s win. It’s always been a goal for us since I started coaching here 4 years ago but it never came to fruition until now, that’s a great feeling.”

Before the CCC Championships, Turley and multiple cheerleaders emphasized that the team’s competitive spirit and focus and the girl’s ability to support one another has allowed them to consistently improve in practice and put the Bobcats in position to be a favorite. These qualities have allowed the cheerleaders to overcome their extensive inexperience entering the season.

“We have a really young team this year with an incredible skill set. Out of a team of 18 girls, only four are juniors or seniors,” Coach Turley said. “From the moment the season started, Assistant Coach Alicia and I could tell all girls are very dedicated because of their focus. The girls are hungrier than ever, and it shows in the way they practice and perform. In addition, they are also really supportive of each other. There has been no cattiness among the girls.”

Sophomore Missy Sullivan echoed her head coach’s words about the value of the cheerleader’s work ethic and bond with one another to South Windsor’s extensive improvement.

“I really enjoy the bond we have as a team and how close I am with my teammates,” Sullivan said. “All of us are very determined to improve and focused on creating a great routine. We put our best foot forward in practice and give our teammates constant support.”

“I think our team’s work ethic has been really important to us getting better,” sophomore Kayla Ryan said. “We aren’t always able to practice as much as we’d like, so being very focused and supportive to each other is absolutely necessary.”

At the CCC Championships, South Windsor and its competitors had to perform a routine which showcased all the best of its capabilities. The Bobcats were scored as a team by judges on their ability to dance, jump, tumble, cheer, and stunt with a routine choreographed to every beat of a song, as well as how difficult their skills are and if the team is smiling and having fun. While South Windsor has been making consistent adjustments to their routine and improved in all skills during the season, Turley and her cheerleaders said their most outstanding team skills are in tumbling and building pyramids, and that their championship routine will heavily rely upon them.

“The girls have a lot of great tumbling skills, which is unusual and important to see,” Turley said. “The girls are always dedicated and have improved their skills a ton, particularly in performing pyramids.”

“We’re great at making pyramids and tumbling, but all our skills have been hitting recently,” senior captain Jenna Stoker said. “That makes us very confident.”

“We’re very strong at tumbling, and we work on it constantly to make sure it’s good. Our dance moves have also become a lot more complete,” Ryan said.

South Windsor has been constantly adjusting their routine in the last few weeks to prepare for the CCCC Championships, some of it based upon feedback they received from judges in their competition at Windsor in the second week of the month. Many of these adjustments were based around creating a more efficient and complex routine.

“We’ve been trying very hard to clean up the routine and adding more difficult moves and stunts that will impress the judges,” Turley said. “Our technique is strong, a lot of our success at the championship will just come down to being efficient and keeping up the same energy. All the team can do is have the strongest performance possible.”

“Our routine has definitely improved in practice the last week based upon the advice we received from judges,” Sullivan said. “We added more flexibility to our stunts and changed some of our 8-count dances. It’s going to better our chances in the CCC’s.”

“Our skills have become more advanced, and we just changed our whole dance to make it more complex and add difficult moves. Hopefully, it will get us extra points,” Stoker said.

Turley provided simple praise for South Windsor’s performance that sealed the CCC East.

“It’s really hard to choose one thing that they did most exceptionally, but I’d have to say the biggest improvement was their overall performance.  The routine as a whole was very clean, and that was our focus going into CCC’s.  They went out there and gave it their absolute best, they had fun doing it, and that definitely showed.”

South Windsor had had to constantly adjust its routine and lineup of cheerleaders used throughout the season and especially recently due to injuries and sickness. Because of this, the Bobcats have relied heavily upon  alternate girls to perform in the routine when cheerleaders are unavailable. Turley discussed the difficultly of experiencing these setbacks regularly and how injuries and sicknesses have been handled by the roster, and the flexibility her girls have shown.

“Each team member brings a very different, and very specific skill set to the mat that can’t be easily replicated, if at all, by anyone else, which is why injuries and illness make such an impact on what we do. If one person is out, there isn’t usually an alternate person that can fill in for every skill the other person had.  We do reinforce flexibility by teaching the girls multiple stunting positions, so if the needs of the team change they will be prepared. They are being very flexible and focused in handling changing lineups,” she said.

“The injuries and sicknesses are tough to experience, but we have alternate girls and can work around it,” Sullivan said. “The performance adjustments we’ve made has made all of us more flexible, and the coaches have helped us a lot with incorporating the lineup changes and keeping confidence.”

South Windsor also consistently struggles to obtain practice space and schedule times, as is true of many local cheerleading programs. This is due to the Bobcats having to share gym space and scheduling around the basketball and wrestling teams. Turley and the other coaches consistently have multiple plans in place for obtaining practice times and locations, and Turley as well as her cheerleaders praised the other coaches and the administration with being very helpful towards accommodating cheerleading. Turley stated this issue is challenging, “but it’s definitely taught the girls about growth mindset and perseverance.”

Entering the CCCC Championships,  Ryan said the squad absolutely should win  the East Division if the girls were focused and give 110%, and Sullivan said the team as a whole was very confident, and a winning routine will occur if they maintain perspective and execute as a group.

South Windsor winning the CCC East division can and should be a huge step forward for the program, and help its size and success grow in the next few years. Turley and the cheerleaders also hoped that it can increase the participation in cheerleading grow amount younger South Windsor girls.

“Winning the CCC East championships should improve our recognition as a championship program with students, and help us have more talented girls join and encourage younger cheerleaders to perform for South Windsor High,” Turley said.

“Winning the CCC’s would demonstrate our ability to be a championship program,” Sullivan said. “It would set an example for younger cheerleaders to dedicate themselves more, and show students what we can really do as athletes.”

South Windsor will compete in the Connecticut State Championships on March 3rd as part of the LL Division, along with 17 other programs. Turley discussed the program’s hopes for the competition and focus going forward.

“We are up against 17 amazing teams so we aren’t looking to place right now, but we are looking to finish out the season with competition where everyone can be on the mat. We’ve been missing girls due to illness and injury, so we are just really looking forward to competing as a full team.  At the end of the season we’ll talk as a team about some goals the girls want to set for themselves as individuals to work toward over the summer that will help them be prepared for next season,” Turley said.

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