Good Luck - Port Chester Cheerleaders
Could the second time be a charm? The Port Chester cheerleading team hopes so.
For the second straight year, the Rams' cheerleaders earned a spot at the National High School Cheerleading Championship, which is scheduled for Feb. 12 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. But during their first trip, the girls were wide-eyed and awe-struck — just happy to be there. But this time is different.
"I think we're more focused," senior captain Amanda Blasi said. "We know what we want."
What Port Chester seeks is more success than last winter, when the Rams went home from the competition without advancing past the preliminary stage. Now, prelims have become their hurdle. They'll spend the rest of the practice time preparing to leap it.
Without funding, the team has sought to raise money since the beginning of the season. Sanchez even said plans were in the works for an exhibition at the middle school on Feb. 6, where the team would sell tickets to a display of its new routines.
"We're still trying to get that last bit of money so we're not lacking when we get there," said Sanchez, the 28-year-old, second-year coach. "The focus of the girls and really deciding what they want has been important.'
Splash Car Wash donated $400 from a Sunday Event to the cheerleading squad the Monday night before the girls were to head down to compete. Mark Curtis was on hand to wish the squad luck and snap a quick picture.
"We didn't make it out of prelims last year, but that's what we expected," Port Chester coach Chezdis Sanchez said. "It was just really an eye-opener for the girls. They saw what other teams are doing. They saw how serious those other teams are with the sport.
"We have higher expectations this year. We hope to make it out of prelims and we're a completely different team this year. Even though we were a great team last year, we broke the boundary, now we're hoping to make it into Round 1."
That Port Chester team reached Nationals for the first time in school history. It now returns a squad without 14 of those girls, all seniors who graduated.
But forget preliminaries. The new group nearly missed an opportunity for redemption back on Dec. 13 when hazardous weather turned a two-plus-hour drive to its regional qualifier into a six-hour zigzag up hills, down valleys and into Berwick High School in the Poconos hours late.
"I-80 was closed. There were a lot of car accidents. Cars were spinning out all over the place in front of us. Ambulances were everywhere," Sanchez remembered. "It was quite scary.'
Obsessed with its routines, the squad was less concerned about the circuitous route and more worried about getting there at all.
"People were asking questions, and answers weren't really being given," Blasi said. "No one really knew what was going to happen."
The bus never turned back for home. As Sanchez called everyone — and organizers told her the Rams could switch their time and still post a score — girls dressed and prepped for the competition as best they could.
"We were willing to do anything," Blasi said. "There were girls stretching on the bus. There were girls lying down in the isle, or taking out hair curlers on the bus. We were willing to do whatever it took."
Not only did they compete, they met their goal, qualifying for Nationals yet again.