NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Fresh off their historic wins at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, the New Rochelle High School varsity and junior varsity cheerleading teams returned home Tuesday night.
The varsity and junior varsity teams each took first place in their respective divisions for the first time in school history. The previous best finish for either team was second place.
A crowd of family and friends gathered in front of New Rochelle High School about 7:30 p.m. with flowers, balloons and hugs for the cheerleaders as they stepped off the bus.
Varsity head coach Chrissy Stanionis said she did not cry at all during her time in Orlando. But on the bus ride back to the high school, the whole experience became real for her.
“I cried. I had tears going down my face practically halfway from the airport,” Stanionis said. “I was crying the whole way, because I think it all started to hit me because it was a little surreal in Florida.”
The JV team won the Large Junior Varsity Division on Saturday, while the varsity team won Small Varsity Division I on Sunday, so the varsity team had an extra day to think about their goal once they watched their younger counterparts take the gold.
“That put the pressure on the varsity girls because we were so excited,” Stanionis said. “We didn’t expect it. They didn’t expect it. When they won, it just kind of made us go, ‘Okay, it’s our time. It’s our turn.’”
The cheerleaders emerged from the bus in their white national championship jackets with trophies in hand. Everyone then moved into the gymnasium, where Stanionis gave a short speech and read a congratulatory message from New Rochelle mayor Noam Bramson, who could not attend the festivities.
Stanionis called the win “a dream come true” but said she knew that any of the top teams in Orlando could have taken first place, because the final point margin was so small. But once New Rochelle finished its final routine, the coach had faith.
“I just knew that from what I could feel on the floor, it seemed like we were the ones that had the most power and the most presence on the floor,” Stanionis said.
Senior varsity cheerleader Alejandra Toro had the chance to not only celebrate her own team’s win, but to appreciate the magnitude of what the two teams together did down in Orlando.
“It was great. This has never happened to us before, ever,” Toro said. “No one has ever won nationals before, so to have two teams - it’s great. We couldn’t have had it any better way.”