Penn-Trafford competitive spirit earns WPIAL medium-squad title

Sunday, January 12, 2020 | 9:33 AM

It has been eight years since the PIAA officially held the first season of competitive spirit, and the past seven seasons have featured Penn-Trafford qualifying and competing for the PIAA medium division championship after participating in the WPIAL championships a week before.

This year was different, because for the first time, the Warriors came home as the WPIAL medium division champions. Penn-Trafford scored 80.7 out of a possible 100 points to edge Hempfield (78.5 points).

“(The squad) is going into states with momentum and a good state of mind. Taking first was huge, and the girls were absolutely thrilled,” coach Kristie Lynn said. “We always have high expectations for them, but this is a huge win. We are super excited about it.”

Lynn has been coaching cheerleading for 12 years, including the formation of the Penn-Trafford competitive spirit team, which she has been overseeing for seven years.

Of all the portions performed at the WPIAL championships, Lynn feels the cheering event is what pulled her squad ahead of the other medium division teams.

“Their stunts and tumbling are more difficult than ever before, and they execute it well, too,” she said. “The cheer portion is where they crushed it. They are super crowd-effective, have lots of high energy, and that’s where they do super well.”

The squad is led by senior captains Jessica Stitely, Sophia Marturano and Symone Puskar as well as sophomore captains Carleigh Bruno and Gia DiDiano.

“Sophia is highly skilled at her sport and wants to cheer at Pitt next fall, and Jessica is so motivating and knowledgeable about her sport,” Lynn said. “Symone is a super-talented athlete.”

The Warriors are one of 15 teams to qualify for a championship trip to Hershey with one bid for the best large division team (21 members or more), five spots for the best medium division teams (16-20 members) and six for the small division (15 members or fewer). The three remaining spots go to the next three best scores of any division.

At Hershey, the medium-division state championship field starts with 34 teams, which is split into two sections of 17 teams competing for five spots each in the final round. Twelve teams qualify for the championship round, so the final two spots are earned through a final panel between the next 10 best teams that have yet to qualify.

The final round has become familiar territory for Penn-Trafford, having reached it the past two years, including a school-best sixth-place finish in 2019.

To place higher in the state competition, Lynn said her team has to be clean in its routine, high energy and teamwork. Twenty of the 30 Warrior cheerleaders on the roster competed at the PIAA championship last weekend.

There are two divisions of competition in national high school competitive cheering, gameday and mat.

The PIAA holds only mat competitions, which calls for only 20 participants. Penn-Trafford uses 30 cheerleaders for national competitons that include the gameday event.

All 30 team members travel and practice with the team. Two Warriors who normally are not among the performing 20 (Alexa Rullo and Megan Alexander) were on the mat in place of two injured regulars (Alex Boyko and Sierra Morgan) for the state championships.

The more the program matures, the better the girls on the team become, Lynn said.

“The girls that have grown up through the program are the ones (who perform the best) every year,” she said. “Last year was the first time competing at the national championships in Orlando, and all but two girls currently on the team competed.”

The team placed 10th overall in its first time competing for a national prize. Lynn likes how her team is always ready to perform with a positive attitudes.

“I love when they show up to practice willing to give 100% all for their team,” she said. “They have been working since the summer together (to perfect their routines), and I love the vibe when they walk in ready to work hard.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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