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Vol. LXII, No. 50
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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Dancing, Humility and a Lot of Practice Bring “Shock” of Success to Cheerleaders

Ellen Gilbert

Wikipedia defines cheerleading as “a sport that requires physical fitness, flexibility, coordination, and hard work, uses organized routines made from elements of tumbling, dance, jumps and stunting to direct spectators of events to cheer on sports teams at games and matches and/or compete at cheerleading competitions.” The Princeton High School cheerleading squad brought all these abilities to bear — with a vengeance — in their recent triumph as the grand champions at this year’s Colonial Valley Conference Cheerleading Competition.

The win marked the first time that a Princeton squad has won the annual regional competition, and the story only gets better in the context of knowing that the group usually placed last or next-to-last in previous years.

A first-time fund-raising effort by the team also paid off, with the hiring of choreographers from World Cup All Stars and the purchase of music, helping them capture a “best dance” first place in addition to the overall championship.

“We had no expectations this year,” said co-captain Bridget Slade recently. “We placed seventh out of eight teams last year; anything would have been an improvement.” The competition was particularly tough this year, the PHS senior noted, with 13 squads participating.

Junior Rebecca Lipschutz, the squad’s other co-captain, attributed the team’s success, in part, to “hard work,” with everyday practices that began in early August. “The girls were completely relaxed,” by the time they got to the competition, she said, and the judges actually commented on the sense of fun the squad brought to their routine.

“This was a shock,” said the squad’s delighted coach, Claudine Kelsey. “I’m very, very proud.” The mother of 10-month old twins, she refers to the two trophies won by the team as “my second twins,” and half-jokingly describes keeping them on her desk at work and taking them home each day. (“She talks to them,” reported Bridget and Rebecca.)

Ms. Kelsey said that she was particularly proud of the team’s “humble attitude. A lot of people asked which of the other teams we were going for, but we never even mentioned another team. We just wanted to place.”

PHS football team coach Stephen Everette was also instrumental in the team’s success, said Ms. Kelsey. While football teams are often unaware of cheerleading squads’ preparation and concerns, Mr. Everette helped with fundraising and was “really supportive,” according to Ms. Kelsey. The football team itself turned out to cheer for their cheerleaders at the competition. “We support them every week, so they came out for us,” said Rebecca. And how was the football team’s season this year? “Not as good as ours,” said Ms. Kelsey drolly.

A video of the cheerleading squad’s award-winning routine (“we watch it over and over,” said the captains) will be posted on the school’s website.

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