Pine-Richland spirit team wins WPIAL small squad division, makes return to state competition

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Sunday, January 16, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Last year, the Pine-Richland competitive spirit team did not qualify for the state championship for the first time in school history, so the 2021-22 season was a mission to return to form.

There were some obstacles along the way like getting a late start and injuries, but the Rams accomplished their goal Jan. 8 when they won the Class 3A small squad division at the WPIAL Championships at Hempfield.

Pine-Richland finished fourth overall in 3A and earned a spot at the PIAA championships Jan. 28-29 in Hershey.

“This year was about getting back to the highly competitive team Pine-Richland has been in the past,” first-year coach Amanda Kerestes said. “My goal was to come in here and help the team get a bid to states. Our goal is to make the finals at states. If everything goes well we can do that.”

Kerestes took over the team in late August and the team started working on their routine shortly after. They were about four months behind most of their competition, which started working on their routine in April. Then, the team went through some injuries and had some members miss time due to covid protocols. They had to go to two stunt groups at one time, but added a third to get to a full 15-girl routine a month and a half prior to WPIALs.

Even in the week leading up to WPIALs the Rams had to bring in an alternate because of an injury and had to adjust the routine with only two practices to prepare, but the Rams brought their best performance to WPIALs. Kerestes said it was as good as her team did all season and it was enough to beat the 10 other schools in their division.

“It was really exciting to see them hit it,” Kerestes said. “I know they were capable of it, but you never know the stresses of the changes of the routine would affect them. It was very exciting to see it all come together at the right time.”

Amanda Marburger, Abby DeWick, Sarah Vigna, Carly Newport and Lily Maurer are the five seniors on the team.

Along with the PIAA championship, Pine-Richland also is going to the national championships in February in Orlando. The Rams didn’t go to nationals last year, so they are excited to be making a return trip to Florida.

Like the PIAA event, Kerestes is hopeful the team can make the finals at nationals and is already evolving the routine to prepare them.

“We try to work different difficulties and a variety of skills in there, which is why I think we score well,” Kerestes said. “We want to work up to as much difficulty that we can push into the routine. You have to balance difficulty and execution, because both are important. I don’t stick with the same routine all year. I keep trying to add difficulty and we’ve started to do that at practice to be ready for states and nationals.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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