Barnegat Cheer Squad Firing Up for Big Dance in Orlando
While the local high school cheer squads have been intact since the summer and each has worked hard throughout the fall, occasionally competing as they geared up for the “real” season, the winter months are when the heat rises within the competition schedule.
So far this winter, Barnegat High School’s cheer squad has been preparing for the big dance in Orlando, Fla. – the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Championships, scheduled Feb. 11-12 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex. However, coach Shannon Smith’s squad isn’t waiting for the national competition before striving to become a top-notch crew.
As the national competition looms, the Bengal cheerleaders are working hard at honing their skills while seeking additional hardware for their trophy case by competing locally. Unfortunately, several competitions were canceled due to weather earlier this month. But the team was able to begin fine-tuning its routine at the recent Rams Invitational at Southern Regional High School (during which the Bengals won their division) and will continue to perfect things at the upcoming Wildcat Invitational at Pinelands Regional High School on Sunday, Jan. 29.
“Our motto is ‘Work Hard – Dream Big!’ and our girls want to outdo themselves, not others,” said Smith, whose squad has become consistent over the years, particularly with its excellence in jumps. “Our team is working hard toward hitting a perfect routine at Nationals.”
Without question, the Barnegat squad is most interested in making a huge splash down at the Disney complex. Following a fifth-place effort in the Medium Varsity Division II group at last year’s UCA Nationals, the Bengals return 17 members to a 23-girl crew. They’re looking to really hit the big time in a couple of weeks.
Barnegat won a competition at Hunterdon Central High School in October, then snagged grand champion at Burlington Township’s Spirit Fest early in November, before winning their division crown at the Northeast Regional a week later. So given the success during the fall, and the fact the Bengals now have had two more months of preparation, perfection and winning at the national competition doesn’t seem to be out of the realm of possibility.
“Our teams have been national finalists every year since 2010,” said Smith, whose Medium Varsity and Game Day squads both will compete in Orlando. “We’ve placed in the top-10 every time, with four third-place finishes – which is our highest ranking going into this year’s Nationals. If we hit our routines to the best of our ability, we will always be successful.”
This year’s crew is led by seniors Alyssia Adorno, Alana Belvett, Selena Frusco, Cassie Kacso, Wendy Kenny and Nikki Larkin. Joining them are juniors Britney Adams, Ashley Brack, Hannah Durning, Trinity Harris, Gianna LaValle-Butler, Jaylene McGirr, Kaitlen Nueva, Tori Scully and Gabby Talluto, along with sophomores Reannah Cooper, Alexa Manna and Gianna Spano. The freshmen of the squad are Madison Brack, Kim Godfrey, Zaniyah Harris, Hailey Hill and Emma Kelly.
— David Biggy