Hampton competitive spirit squad caps special season at national championships

Saturday, February 25, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Hampton competitive spirit team was riding a high after hitting a perfect routine in the finals of the PIAA Class 2A championships.

However, the Talbots had a bad break a week before the team was set to compete in the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Championships in Orlando, Fla.

A member of the 15-girl squad who is a base for the Talbots broke her hand, which forced the team to scramble in the final practices leading up to nationals to alter their routine.

Once in Orlando, coach Kathy Long was hit with more bad luck as a flyer sprained an ankle. Long and the Talbots had only one practice in Orlando to rework their whole routine.

Even with the last-minute injuries, the Talbots almost got out of the preliminary round as they finished half a point from moving onto the semifinals of the small varsity division at the UCA National High School Championships on Feb. 10-12.

“We had to alter the routine quickly and make it as clean as possible,” senior Gabby Imbarlina said. “I was very proud of all of us and we were able to throw a whole new routine together. A lot of us had to step up to new roles that we weren’t used to. Everyone persevered through the whole routine.”

The Talbots performed a 2½-minute routine that includes a stunt section, a cheer section and finale that includes a dance and a pyramid. The cheer section took about a minute of the routine. The Talbots completed seven standing tucks. This year, Long put a strong emphasis on improving the team’s tumbling skills.

“They stepped up every time I asked them to and they worked their butts off. We had one goal at the beginning of the season whether we were tumbling together as a group or doing it separately,” Long said.

Before the tough breaks at the end of the year, the Talbots finished fifth at the PIAA Class 2A small varsity finals in Hershey on Jan. 27-28. The teams that finished between second and fifth were separated by just over five points.

The trip to Hershey was Long’s first and the program’s first in five years. The Talbots qualified for states every year from 2014-18.

“It was a new experience for all 16 of us that went. It was wonderful. We advanced directly to finals. A lot of teams that had beaten us all year, we ended up beating them in placements,” Long said.

“For the girls, it was a big accomplishment at a big competition to be able to do that. The final performance, we had a perfect routine.”

The Talbots earned their trip to states after they placed third in the WPIAL Class 2A small squad division (15 members or fewer) and fourth overall.

The senior class includes Laynie Loebig, Lillie Bill, Imbarlina and Brianna DeSabato. Other team members were Emma Clarke, Jessica Lange, Ellieana Myros, Olivia Mayer, Haley Meyer, Keira Palmer, Ashley Rupert and Emily Wenger.

“Every competition, we kept getting better and better. I think our best performance was at the finals at states. I know nationals would’ve been our best performance if we had not had our injuries occur right before it,” Long said. “But the girls’ dedication led to them being very successful. I didn’t have any kids missing practices. They were always willing to stay longer.”


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