By Bill Landon
Kings Park’s cheerleading squad has been battling since opening day, when seven of the team members dropped out. And now the girls are struggling to stay healthy.
The team took to the mat, competing for the top spot in Small School Division I against 10 other teams Dec. 18 at Comsewogue High School, and even with two members sidelined, the girls were able to stay solid through the two-and-a-half-minute performance in front of a near-capacity crowd.
What has made matters more difficult is getting used to the differences between the Long Island Cheerleading Association and Section XI rule book and scoring sheet, since cheerleading has been recognized as a sport.
“We had to change our routines and it’s a drastic change,” said Kings Park head coach Jennifer Ford. “Section XI caused us to fundamentally change how we do it.”
Kings Park senior Alyssa Ambrosia, a two-year varsity starter, said she’s only known the new scoring system, so for her, that’s an advantage.
“We’ve had to overcome a lot this season,” she said. “We were strong in stunting, but I think we can all improve on our tumbling.”
The Kingsmen finished outside the Top 5, but four-year veteran Jamie Barbarino sees nothing but prospect.
“I know that every single person on our team has potential,” she said. “We can be really, really good out there on the mat, but we need to get better with our [end of the routine] pyramid.”
Senior Olivia Nicoletti has been cheering since ninth grade, and has seen the difference between the two scoring methods.
“You have to do certain types of jumps, certain tumbling, and you do stunts differently,” Nicoletti said. “All the points are awarded differently in individual sections, so it’s much harder. We had some challenges today, [another] one of our girls got hurt, so we had to [animate] one stunt.”
Kings Park looks to put on a better performance once they’re at full strength on Jan. 15 at Mount Sinai High School at 9:15 a.m.