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Brittany Reh

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The Rocky Point cheerleading team gets into formation. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point continues to control the top spot.

The Eagles cheerleading team showed why it’s a 13-time regional and three-time national champion when it took to the mat Dec. 18 in the Small School Division I meet. The Eagles competed against 10 other teams and placed first in the event with a flawless two-and-a-half-minute performance that wowed the near-capacity crowd at Comsewogue High School.

The Rocky Point cheerleading team performs for the crowd. Photo by Bill Landon

They were the seventh squad to perform, and took to the mat with a presence. Every tumble was crisp and deliberate, every flip landed in unison and every pyramid was mistake free. The Eagles made it look easy and the girls smiled from ear to ear because they were confident, and genuinely having fun.

Rocky Point head coach Anna Spallina said one challenge her team has had to face with the new rules is getting used to the limited number of practices allowed.

“We still do the three hours sometimes — it’s hard, but three hours is three hours, they know that they have to come to practice and be serious about their work,” she said. “And we keep the level of pride up there.”

She said her girls know the level that they need to uphold, not just for her, but for the judges.

“They know that they’re going to be picked apart a lot harder than any other team,” Spallina said, “because they’re looking for them to make a mistake.”

Senior Kristin Flatley said that with six years of experience, after landing on the mat for the final time, she thought her team aced the performance. Her teammates erupted into celebration, too, because they thought the same thing.

“I think we nailed everything — we work so hard, we practice three hours every single day, we just have to push it out hard,” she said. “We fight for everything, we’re so strong and we know we have it. We bring that excitement to the mat.”

Senior Brittany Reh said her team performed well in every area of the routine.

“They know that they’re going to be picked apart a lot harder than any other team because they’re looking for them to make a mistake.”

—Anna Spallina

“I’m very proud of my team,” Reh said. “We had a lot of energy and I’m really proud of how we executed.”

Spallina told her team that with every competition there’s only one team to beat out on the floor.

“We keep telling them that you actually have to beat yourself at every competition, and that’s hard to do,” she said. “Everyone wants to pick off the top dog.”

Bailey Klein said her team ends every routine leaving it all out on the mat.

“I knew that as soon as the music went on — I looked around and everyone was smiling,” Klein said. “We were having so much fun, we cheer each other on throughout and no one was going to give up.”

Rocky Point senior Morganne Nofi said there’s an element of the routine that only comes with time, which is why the girls are seeing such positive results.

“I think what helped us today is we walked out on the mat with confidence,” she said. “We didn’t hold back anything, we knew what we were capable of and we did show that today. It’s part of our focus — to have a presence when you walk out on the floor. You can’t describe it, but it’s a strong feeling.”

Behind the Eagles were Wantagh, Hauppauge, East Islip and Comsewogue.

Rocky Point hits the competition mat again Jan. 8 at Newfield High School at 9 a.m.

By Bill Landon

Cheerleading squads from all over Suffolk County converged on the mats of Rocky Point High School Sunday for the Suffolk County cheerleading sectionals, where Rocky Point and Comsewogue ran away with first-place finishes.

Cheerleading officially became a recognized sport in the 2015-16 school year, making this sectional event the first time that the competition is overseen and sanctioned by the New York State Public High School Athletics Association.

Rocky Point was the first of 31 teams to take to the mat first in Small School Division I “A,” and the squad wowed the crowd with a two-and-a-half minute routine, despite head coach Anna Spallina feeling less impressed with her Eagles, which are 12-time regional and three-time national champions.

“You have two and a half minutes to prove yourself out on the mat — if you don’t prove yourself in those two and a half minutes, you don’t get a second chance,” Spallina said. “You can’t go to the net again with a ball, or throw that pass one more time, so one little slip, an inch this way or an inch that way, and you can throw it away.”

Pleased or not Spallina’s squad earned first place in the division followed by Longwood and East Islip came in third.

With a squad of consisting of mainly eighth and ninth-graders, and only three seniors, Rocky Point senior Courtney Kelly said the Eagles’ only competition was themselves.

“We don’t worry about any other teams, we just worry about ourselves because the only routine we have to beat is ours,” she said.

Brittany Reh said there are some other challenges now that cheerleading is recognized as a sport, such as a different scoring sheet and new rules, but thought her team performed well despite the changes.

“We had a pretty good performance,” she said. “We stayed positive.”

Claire Johannesen said her team has had better execution on the mat, but will continue to work hard to remain at the team’s standards.

“Today was an okay performance, so we definitely have things we have to go to work on in practice,” she said. “But we did many things well that we’ll build on going forward.”

Northport hit the mat next looking to give Rocky Point a run for first place, and after a performance that impressed the judges, the Tigers’ head coach Danielle Milazzo talked about the adjustment her team has had to adjust to the scoring changes.

“The whole scoring rubric is completely different from last year, so we’re trying to get used to that,” Milazzo said. “We’ve reworked routines to align them with the scoring sheets to try to make sure we get the maximum number of points from New York State.”

Comsewogue hit the mat in the second session, as did Kings Park, competing in the Small School Division I “B.” The Warriors put on a flawless performance as the crowd exploded in applause with their finish, but head coach Stefanie Breitfeller was just relieved that the routine was behind her, as the team had yet another hurdle to jump prior to a competition.

“We had a major change this morning as I found out last night one of the girls came down with pink eye,” Breitfeller said. “We had to replace a starter, so we came into this thinking this could go badly or it could go very well.”

Comsewogue senior Samantha Donlon was thrilled with her team’s first-place finish.

“We did absolutely amazing — we have worked so hard for this day and I’m really proud,” she said. “I’m so happy and this will make us perform even harder next week.”

Comsewogue senior Rachel Steck said she thought her Warriors team also performed well, but thinks that like always, there is room for improvement.

“It could’ve been a little tighter, but I’m just so proud of my team,” she said.”We did our best today. We’ll practice our routine; we’ll make it harder and we’ll make it cleaner.”

For junior Brittany Dein, she thought her team performed beyond its expectations with the last-minute change.

“All week we’ve been running the routine a whole bunch of times and I can’t fault any part of our performance,” Dein said.

The teams will reconvene on Sunday Jan. 24 at Hauppauge High School for the second round of competition.