By Carina Livoti
The Walt Whitman High School varsity cheer team reaped the rewards of more than six months of dedicated practice, becoming the first cheer team in the school’s history to make it to the finals in the National High School Cheerleading Championship (NHSCC).
The team last week competed against the top 54 teams for the small varsity Division 1 category in the 2015 NHSCC preliminary round in Walt Disney World, Florida. They were one of 27 teams to advance to the semifinals and moved to the finals for the first time in Wildcats history. They went on to finish 17th in the nation.
The team’s dedication to teamwork is what allowed them to reach this historic milestone, according to their coach, Tracy Kotch.
“Cheerleading’s such a progressive sport that you have to be dedicated as a team; it’s not just about individual performances,” Kotch said.
The coach said the team’s four seniors, Natalie Dunn, Sabrina Philippe, Juliana Botta, and Sheryl Rodriguez, were instrumental role models for the team, showing the younger girls the dedication it takes to become successful. All four have been cheerleading since the seventh grade.
The girls felt both proud and privileged to see their hard work pay off, the coach said. She said she kept them focused during the competition by reminding them that they performed not just to win, but for fun. Kotch felt that they brought their love of performance to the stage with them.
This was Kotch’s second year coaching varsity. For her, the championship success reflected the program’s progress. The team qualified for the semifinals at Nationals last year; this was her first time seeing the competition through.
The team, which also took second place in the Long Island Championship, will be competing in the New York State Invitational at Bay Shore High School on Feb. 28.