Group effort helped Hempfield competitive spirit team defend PIAA title

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Monday, February 13, 2023 | 11:40 AM


It was another stirring performance for the Hempfield competitive spirit cheerleading squad.

The high-energy Hempfield cheerleaders captured their second consecutive team championship in the PIAA Class 3A large varsity division Jan. 27-28 at Giant Center in Hershey.

Hempfield coach Suzannah Mayer was ecstatic about the Spartans’ performance in the two-day event.

“This team is just different,” Mayer said. “They understand what they need to do in order to have the results they want. We’re coaching kids, but they’re all so mature in terms of understanding the sport of cheerleading.

“It’s evident that everyone on this team has a passion for what they’re doing. Our coaching staff clicks perfectly. Our athletes have immense passion. Our parents provide unwavering support. Without a doubt, we succeed because of this outstanding group effort.”

Last year, Hempfield attained 94.2 total points to defeat runner-up Cumberland Valley by 1.3 points.

This year, the Spartans finished with 92.5 and won by a 0.73-point margin over runner-up Saint Huberts.

“We competed in the preliminary round on Friday and performed a perfect routine with zero deductions,” Mayer said. “After the preliminary round, we were in first place and advanced straight to finals, skipping the semifinal round.

“The final round was Saturday afternoon. We had a solid performance and did so many things well. Our performance in the finals had a small error; however, our high level of difficulty and execution throughout the other sections of the routine allowed us to come out on top.”

Saint Huberts (91.77), Haverford (89.7), Baldwin (89.03) and North Allegheny (83.85) placed second through fifth.

Hempfield has been the WPIAL’s dominant competitive spirit cheer squad in recent years, winning the past three large varsity titles in 3A. The Spartans won the large varsity crown this year and reeled in their third consecutive overall title.

Hempfield’s cheer squad definitely belongs in the large varsity division with 29 girls competing this year starting with 17 seniors: Abigail Blahovec, Alex Pembleton, Alyssa Kantner, Andrea Dancu, Brooke Bomer, Carissa Miller, Courtney Yeargers, Cydney Blahovec, Emma Geiger, Gabi Lentz, Grace McMillen, Loren Breslin, Madi Dingler, McCall Feenan, Reagan Shick, Saydee Resnik and Taylor Artman.

Resnik, Dancu, Shick, Bomer, McMillen and Cydney Blahovec serve as co-captains.

“As a team, I think we were very confident going into states,” Resnik said. “Our practices had been really great, and we were just overall very excited to compete. It really was amazing hearing our name called for first as a back-to-back win. I truly didn’t think it was possible. With it being my senior year, it was the most amazing feeling.

“I think the second day the nerves got to us a little bit and we had a small deduction, but we knew during the routine we had to step it up even more to gain those points back. I am proud of every one of my teammates for pushing through and making this last states (competition), for me, one I will never forget.”

Resnik, who has a 4.0 GPA, competes in track and field at Hempfield, and participates in many community service activities and a few clubs. She plans to attend Ohio University and major in engineering.

“I honestly couldn’t be more proud of my team this year,” Resnik said. “We have done everything we can to make this season the best yet. We have all pushed ourselves to do our very best and it is definitely paying off.

“I am blessed to have amazing coaches and a family that has pushed me to be my best on and off the mat.”

Dancu was almost speechless following the Spartans’ triumph at the PIAA competition.

“I can’t even put into words how incredibly grateful I am to have won this title once again,” she said. “With 17 seniors, this title meant everything to our team. The 3A large varsity division is very competitive, and to have won is such an achievement.

“We had a rough start at the beginning of our season with injuries, but once our first big competition came around, which was WPIALs, we turned things around quickly and got to work. I think we peaked at the perfect time.”

Dancu has a 3.7 GPA and her future plans include attending Pitt-Greensburg.

“I am so blessed to have been able to cheer with the majority of these girls ever since I was just 9 years old,” Dancu said. “This journey has been unbelievable, and I can’t wait to finish the season off strong and make it a moment I won’t ever forget with all of my best friends.”

Shick, like all the captains, couldn’t be prouder of her team.

“Winning states again feels so surreal. Hearing our name get called first for the second year in a row was something extremely special and inexplicable,” Shick said. “Competing against such high-caliber teams in our division made for a thrilling weekend, and putting two amazing performances out on the floor was just what we had hoped for and what we accomplished.

“We all knew we had the capability to come out on top. The win was truly one of the most memorable, emotional and amazing moments of the season, and it feels so great to have that back-to-back title.”

Shick has a 4.0 GPA and is senior class vice president. She is a member of Stem Literacy and multiple honor societies, and plans to become a physician’s assistant.

“I think we were all really in the moment with each other and our coaches and really taking in these final days and weeks we have as a team,” Shick said. ”The bond we have is tight-knit considering we have been cheering together for so long. I think that allowed us to trust each other on the mat to be at our best.

“Performance-wise, we brought the most energy both days, I think, and it really showed the judges how badly we wanted this win. The passion, drive and love we have for each other and our sport really came through and I couldn’t be prouder.”

With the victory in Hershey, the Spartans remained undefeated on the season.

“I think from beginning to end we have performed exceptionally well and lived up to our potential no matter the circumstances,” Shick said. ”We really have been through thick and thin and to be able to be a cohesive team that consistently put out amazing routines is truly something special.

“This program, coaches and team are one of a kind. We have been together for so long, and the standard we have been taught to is not only high for cheer but also in life. These coaches are really part of the backbone of our success. They have taught us so many lessons.”

Cyndey Blahovec and McMillen are Hempfield’s only four-year competitive spirit cheerleaders.

Four juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen round out the squad. The junior class is represented by Alexa Gray, Gianna DeMarco, Mailly Feenan and Savannah Watson.

Carly Coletta, Carys Short, Morgan Shaffer and Rose Bishop are sophomores, and Alyssa Ranieri, Arianna Gray, Ava Lebin and Mallory Bitar are freshmen.

Hempfield’s electrifying performance at the PIAA finals did not surprise Mayer, who is assisted by Alanna Wilson.

“We have hit a routine at almost every practice since the end of December,” Mayer said. “Being so consistent and predictable throughout our preparation is the reason why our PIAA performances were so strong.

“Our performances weren’t flawless, but they were the best our girls put out there in front of a crowd all season.”

The Spartans participated in the National High School Cheerleading Championships this weekend in Orlando, competing in the traditional division as well as the game-day division.

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