GENEVA — The Geneva High School cheerleading squad earned a Section V championship for the third consecutive season last weekend.
And, now that cheerleading is officially recognized as a sport by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the Panthers’ winter season is not yet over.
Geneva is going to Onondaga Community College tomorrow to compete in the state championships.
For the first time, teams qualified for the meet instead of being open.
“They’ve had the state tournament before, but anyone could go,” Geneva coach Donna Morrell said. “This is an invitational where you have to win sectionals or be, in some sections, the top two scores.”
The Panthers will be competing in the Class D2 Large School group at 10:50 a.m. If it produces one of the top five scores in that bracket, Geneva advances to the afternoon finals.
“I’ve been with them a long time,” said Morrell, who is in her third season as varsity coach. “I was their junior varsity coach for most of them, so they have come with me ... I think it makes a huge difference.
“They’re used to each other. They’ve been together for a long time. We’ve worked for this for a very long time. I believe that is what helps a team is when they grow together.”
“It’s really great to be able to do this as a team,” added Geneva senior Izzy Campbell, 17. “We have a really good team here and we’ve had a hard season, but we’ve worked hard for what we’ve done for sectionals.”
The Panthers, who have 18 varsity competitors, also claimed a sectional championship in the fall to go with three straight winter crowns.
“I believe tumbling, the amount, it’s all based on numbers now,” Morrell noted of what helped her team win sectionals this year. “You have to have over 50 percent in the skills that they do, and I believe all the schools that we competed against did not have the numbers.
“I have 10 tumblers, and most of (the other teams) had three or four, so that was huge,” she elaborated. “That really helps your score ... it’s based on difficulty now, so I think we had more difficulty, and the tumbling really helped.”
“I think we all just really came together as a team and we all just really wanted it,” Geneva senior Gabriella Valastro, 17, said. “As seniors, especially, it was our last time going for a sectional title.”
This week has been an opportunity for the Panthers to perfect their craft.
“Cheerleading is so different across the board because everyone has their own style,” Morrell noted. “In Section V, we all have pretty much the same style, but now I haven’t seen some of these schools.
“All we can do is excel in what Section V is known for ... we just really are clean and tight and a team that flows. We want everyone to hit and be consistent.”
“What we’ve been working on this week is cleaning up the routine and perfecting it and making it as perfect as we can get it,” Campbell remarked.
“We all need to have confidence that we can do it,” Geneva senior Deovionna Cunningham, 17, said.