BHS Cheer Squad Exalts in Trophy Season

Snag Third-Place at UCA Nationals
Feb 13, 2019
Courtesy of: Jessica McDermott THE BIG TIME: The 12 Barnegat High School cheer squad members show off their medals after awarded third-place at the UCA National Championships held Feb. 8 in Orlando.

For the 12 competitors on the Barnegat High School cheer squad, the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Championships has been on the radar since last season.

“We were really motivated this year because we didn’t get to the finals last year,” said senior Reannah Cooper. “We had been used to going to the finals so not getting there last year was a little bit of a low for us.”

The Bengals not only reached the Small Varsity Game Day championship round on Feb. 8, they went a step farther by finishing third in the nation during the annual quest to be the best at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

“It’s a proud moment for us,” said Cooper, who along with classmates Victoria Leonard and Gianna Spano have led the squad this season. “We’ve been through a lot this season and I’m really proud of how the team came together. The smiles haven’t stopped since the results were announced. It’s amazing. To finish third in the nation blows our minds. It’s indescribable.”

Last year, the Bengals – who had placed third in 2017 – fell short of the final round and then graduated 10 seniors, according to assistant coach Donna Hussey.

“It was kind of a rebuilding year for us,” she said. “But all season, the three seniors, who have been with the team for four years, were the leaders and continued to push the younger girls.”

Throughout the season, Barnegat of course showed it had the capability to compete at the UCA Nationals. The question was just how far the Bengals could go once off the plane in Orlando. They ended up as one of the top 12 teams in the semifinals, holding the fourth spot and landing themselves back in the finals.

“Our team had a really good performance in the semifinals,” Hussey said. “So, before we had to be back at the arena for the finals, we went back to the hotel, ate a little and then went outside to practice the routine and polish up some things. We did the same routine in the finals, but just had to fine-tune a couple of things to make it a little cleaner.”

The brief practice session worked. The Bengals returned to the mat with more confidence and excitement. Barnegat scored a tenth of a point behind Briarcrest Christian School of Tennessee and several points behind Montgomery High School.

“They definitely exceeded the coaches’ expectations,” Hussey said. “We were rebuilding this year and the goal was just to get back to the finals. To get third almost feels like we won. As the results were being counted down, the girls were getting more excited to know they had finished so well.”

In addition to the three seniors, the rest of the squad is comprised of juniors Emma Kelly, Zaniyah Harris, Hailey Hill and Kimberly Godfrey, sophomores Destiny Fratianni, Samantha Madej and Marissa Frusco, and freshmen Rachel Pulig and Brett Meehan.

“We kind of underestimate ourselves and don’t realize how good we are, but now we can say we’re really good,” Cooper said. “We wanted the same thing and made it happen.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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