The defending state champion Plainville Blue Devil cheer squad competed earlier this month for another state title, scoring a first runner-up victory in the co-ed division this time around and an invite to the regional competition.
Despite losing half its competition team this year – including seven to graduation – this year’s PHS squad of 15 competed with a difficult routine that included stunts, pyramids, tumbling, dance and cheering.
All these elements, as well as many other factors – such as facial expressions, energy level and technique – are judged.
“You have to perform it all like you’re having the time of your life,” said PHS coach Amber Fitzpatrick, who’s assisted by Tauri Spencer.
Said senior captain Olivia Haddad: “You can hit the most perfect routine, but if you don’t sell it – it all comes down to those two minutes and 30 seconds.”
This was the fourth year Fitzpatrick navigated the team, and the third that the PHS cheer squad has been co-ed.
Senior captain Heather Arduini, who hopes to cheer at UConn next year, said the boys fit right in and she “can’t imagine going back” to an all-female team.
Senior Angel Wren joined the PHS cheer squad three years ago after previously playing football.
During track season, Wren and a few friends were playing around attempting back flips on the high-jump mats when some cheerleaders suggested they try out for the cheer team.
“I thought, if I make it, I’m going to give it 110-percent,” said Wren, who hopes to cheer for the Navarro College team in Corsicana, Texas featured on the Netflix series “Cheer.”
The PHS cheer squad also included male athletes Andrew Wojcik, a junior, and freshman Seth Anderson.
“The boys, they add the muscle, but they’re also goofier than the girls,” Fitzpatrick quipped.
Anderson, who never cheered before this year, was one of five PHS cheer team members chosen All-State this season. Joining Anderson on the All-State team were PHS sophomores Alexis Demaine and Alexis McCarty, and juniors Isabelle Berube and Wojcik.
Meanwhile, Wojcik, Berube, Demaine, McCarty and junior Caitlyn Quilter earned all-conference accolades. To be selected, athletes must be nominated and audition before a panel in cheer, tumbling and jumping categories.
For the PHS cheer team, the season begins at try-outs in May. Then they have tumbling classes, conditioning and technique classes throughout the summer.
When football season begins, the team has practice four days a week.
Then, when football season is over, competition preparation begins.
It’s a tough schedule, and morale goes up and down.
“It’s a long season. Sometimes you need to be a coach, a mother, a therapist, a friend.” Fitzpatrick said. “They are all capable, but when morale is down, it shows in their performance.”
And as the PHS cheerleaders discovered this winter, being a defending state champion brings added pressure.
“It’s harder to be a champion than to become a champion,” said Wren.