WILMINGTON – Five years ago, in the middle of the winter cheerleading season, the program was without a coach, and Christina Zuccaro, with her strong background in the sport, came to the rescue, knowing she had to juggle many things with her family and her own career.
After seven combined league titles between the fall and winter seasons, as well as a three-year state runner-up finish, Zuccaro knew the juggling act would only last so long, so she has retired effective at the conclusion of the Thanksgiving Day game next week.
Her assistant Kylie Bolarinho, who has been with the program for the past few years, has been named Zuccaro’s replacement, taking over for both seasons.
“I have a new job and am working full time,” Zuccaro said. “I used to work in finance in Boston and I went back to it during the summer, so between work, my family and everything they do — my son is into hockey, soccer and baseball — it just got too much. I am constantly running in a different direction than everyone else.”
Interim athletic director Dennis Ingram said he has now seen a handful of his coaches resign recently, with nearly all due to the need to spend more time at home.
“It’s sad to see Christina go, but it’s also bittersweet. It’s kind of similar to when we were dealing with (former girls basketball coach) Jessica (Robinson),” Ingram said. “Christina has her family and some of the same things that she told me were some of the same things that Jess had told me. When you are pulled in many different directions, it is very difficult.
“What some people don’t realize is all these coaches, this is their second job. Obviously these coaches are passionate about coaching, they care so much about the kids, but when you step back, it’s their second job. They have another job that pays the bills, so when you have to prioritize things, you are sometimes unfortunately pulled in too many directions. She does what she has to. We will miss Christina so much and we are very sad to see her go.”
Zuccaro led the ‘Cats to league titles in 2018, ’19, ’20 and ’21 during the indoor season and then ’19, ’21 and this current season. The ‘Cats also finished second in the state three times during the fall season, in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
“These girls just work really hard. I don’t think you’ll ever see another team that works as hard as these girls do and come together like we do, she said. “We fell a little short during the fall state championship meet (last year), but I can’t say they didn’t deserve where they ended up. We felt we had one of the best teams out there.
Last year’s team, says Zuccaro, in terms of talent was the best she has had in the five years.
“Last year’s class was amazing. I had a really good class and the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes were just full of great kids and cheerleaders,” Zuccaro said. “(Current senior) Tiffanie (Smith) is the last of that (four-year stretch), so it was just a great four years. We are just one big family. That’s what’s different and what most schools don’t get – how much these girls come together as a team.”
Through the eight combined seasons she coached, Zuccaro said she has nothing but fond memories.
“I loved it and this was a very difficult decision to make. I just thought it was time,” she says.
Bolarinho graduated in 2018 from Billerica Memorial High School. She came up through Billerica Pop Warner and did four years of cheerleading for the high school team.
“I’ve been cheering all my life,” said the 22-year-old. “I think cheerleading is a good sport to bring people together, plus I love football and I love watching football. I also like the competitive aspect of (cheerleading). I like competing for a title.”
During her high school days, she was part of the Billerica team that took second place at states all four years she competed, and eight in a row. She added that Billerica and Wilmington are different, which is what first interested her in an assistant position and now the head coaching position.
“I’ve been rooting for Billerica my whole life, so I came to a different program and a different city with different people and everything is run differently, so I like to see how other cities run their programs as opposed to Billerica,” she said, while noted that her brother Jordan was a former WHS Football assistant coach and is now on the Lowell High staff.
Bolarinho will take over immediately the Monday after Thanksgiving when tryouts for the winter season begin.
“I’m excited and I’ve never had my own team before so I’m excited about it. “I don’t necessarily want to change this program, but I want to see where it can go,” she said. “I want to thank Deb Smith for introducing me to the Wilmington Cheerleading program and to Christina Zuccaro for teaching me everything I know.”
Ingram said Bolarinho has the background in the sport to maintain the strong tradition of competitive cheerleading here at WHS.
“Kylie has been Christina’s assistant and we brought her in and interviewed her and a few other candidates (for the head coaching position),” he said. “She did extremely well.
“She is excited about the opportunity. She grew up in Billerica and has a strong background in cheerleading. She has been highly recommended throughout the cheering circle. She is excited about this and I know the girls are too.”