Riverhead cheerleaders raise funds for trip to nationals in Orlando…

Excitement is building as the Riverhead High School varsity cheerleading squad prepares to head to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Universal Cheerleading Association’s national high school competition February 10-12.

The three-day competition will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. The nine-member team will compete against 100 others from schools across the country. Currently, the team is raising funds to cover travel expenses.

“The school doesn’t pay for this type of competition, so the girls fund the whole trip themselves,” said coach Stephanie Piraino. “Cheerleading is an expensive sport, plus they have to cover the cost of airfare and hotels. All told that’s about $1,200 to $1,400 per child.

Several events are planned to help the team achieve its goal. On Thursday, January 26, the team will host a cause dinner at East on Main in Mattituck. The restaurant will donate a portion of all takeout and dine in profits to the fundraiser.

There will also be a clothes drive on February 3, during which gently used clothing, shoes, hats, jackets and bags can be left at Riverhead High School. Donations will be taken to Go Green Textile Recycling, who will give a percentage of money back to the team based on how many bags of clothing they collect. Team members have also created a GoFundMe page to help them in their effort.

“We did so much,” said senior team co-captain Lauren Melvin. “But our team has been so dedicated. We have all put so much work and time into doing our best and raising enough money to go to Florida.

At the regional competition in December, the Riverhead girls took second place overall and received two offers. Bids are invitations to compete at the highest level of high school cheerleading, and a team cannot take part in national competitions without at least one.

“Having two bids means we have two chances to win,” Lauren explained. “It’s a little stressful remembering two separate routines, but we really proved to ourselves last year that we can do it.”

The team will perform a traditional cheer routine consisting of two sections of music. The first part combines gymnastics and acrobatics and the second part will involve more dance, with a pyramid formation at the end. The second routine is called “game day,” which mirrors the style of cheerleading one would see at a college or pro football game.

“It is rare for us to receive two bids for internationals and it will be the first time we have competed on a game day,” Ms Piraino said. “We have overcome a lot of adversity this year and to be successful you need to be fully committed to the sport. The girls in the team are hard workers. In cheering you have to be perfect and with nine girls you can’t hide anyone’s mistakes. It’s not like other sports, where if you drop the ball you get the chance to catch it again. You don’t get a second chance if you make a mistake.”

Cheerleaders spend two to three hours a day, six days a week, perfecting their competitive routines. On Saturdays, they participate in other competitions throughout Long Island. At these events, cheerleaders have the opportunity to practice both routines in a performance setting.

“Workouts can get intense, especially when you balance cheerfulness with homework,” said senior co-captain Leslie Alvarado. “We push ourselves to the limit in every practice and strive to be the best we can be. As co-captain, I always try to build my team, even in times when everyone is stressed. We are all in this together.”

The team hopes to raise around $10,000. Its nine members are working tirelessly to make sure we can make the trip.

“I’m very proud of our team and how far we’ve come with just the nine of us,” said Lauren. “Even on really tough days, through blood, sweat and tears, we know we can come together to give our all for the competition.”

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