BY Dan Gardella
Asst. Sports Editor
The Sacred Heart cheerleading team concluded their competitive schedule on Feb. 23 by capturing the Northeast Cheerleaders Association (NECA) competition, defeating in-state rivals Western Connecticut State University, the University of New Haven, and Fairfield University.
The win was the third year in a row that the Pioneers claimed the title. They beat the competition by 8 points.
“It’s awesome,” said head coach CJ Sereno. “Obviously, the girls have worked really hard. They started preparing from the moment we had tryouts, which are at the end of April. As a year round stop, competition never ends.”
For senior Jaime Parkan, winning this year’s competition not only brings redemption from previous results, but it allows her to finish her cheering career on a high note.
“For me, I’ve been cheering since I was 7 years old,” said Parkan. “Being able to end on a good note after all these years that I’ve been cheering and it being such a big commitment was important.”
Prior to the NECA competition, the team finished sixth in the Universal Cheerleaders Association, Universal Dance Association, College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship. The result stuck in Parkan’s mind; she said that winning the NECA competition was a good bounce back from their previous performance.
The routine performed by the cheerleaders, which lasts around two and a half minutes, contains tumbling, stunting, and precision. It takes time for the routine of that length to be developed and practiced to perfection.
“In the beginning of the year, CJ makes up our whole routine,” said junior Jayce Jones. “She takes our input too with stunts as well as the skill level we’re at. Throughout the season, we build onto it. Things can change.”
Sereno said that a lot of work is put in over the summer and the team spends the entire month of August preparing their routines. The “hard core time,” according to Serono, occurs from September through January, when the team practices five times a week.
In competitions, the routine is performed only once and has little room for error. Sereno said it takes preparation, both mentally and logistically, to perform a routine to perfection.
“I always tell the girls that they have to take it one step at a time,” said Sereno. “When you see the routines that they do, it’s so much going on at once. But it really is broken down into one specific motion or walking a certain way. I always tell them to make sure they are breaking it down.”
Since Nationals is the top competition of the season, the NECA allowed the team to breathe easier and excel.
“Overall, this past competition, we really excelled in our performance,” said Parkan. “I wouldn’t say a particular part was better because going into the competition, I was really confident in our team that we could hit the skills we’ve been doing. That’s exactly what we did.”
Sereno hopes to have the team cheer in one final competition this season at the end of March.
“The momentum never stops, it switches,” said Sereno. “They know what the momentum is like up until they get to competition. Once competition season is over, you switch gears and you’re now preparing for next season.”