Sewickley Academy cheerleaders bring spirit to winter sports programs

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Sunday, December 18, 2022 | 11:01 AM


When it pertains to school spirit, Sewickley Academy cheerleaders Nikki Golestan and Alex Cordle rise above the crowd.

The senior co-captains promote an intensity spirit-wise that is beyond comparison.

“Our captains have amazing school spirit and Panther pride,” said Lindsey Petruska, who shares the cheer coaching duties at Sewickley with Lexi Shazer. “It’s been contagious, and others want to share in the experience.

“Our cheerleading squad has nearly doubled in size from last season, which is a testament of how our returning cheerleaders brought school spirit and school pride to Sewickley Academy.”

Cheerleading is one of five varsity sports offered at SA in the winter months, along with boys and girls basketball and swimming.

Golestan, Cordle, Allyson Aufman and Mary Grace Gordon are seniors on this year’s 11-member varsity cheerleading squad.

“I am someone who likes to push herself out of her comfort zone,” said Golestan, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran. “I wanted to try as many things as possible in high school even if some were what I considered out of reach.

“I have many passions beyond the scope of school, including the arts. I have loved drawing since I was a little girl and am lucky enough to have not only my artwork published but also one of my poems. I use my art as a way of advocating for my personal beliefs. I recently created a website that displayed my take on the cultural revolution currently happening in Iran. I included art pieces that depicted different events in Iran’s history as well as portrayed Iran’s government for what it truly is. Much of my family is suffering there, and I seek to speak out in any way I can to help them.

Golestan, owner of a 3.9 GPA, competed in golf for two seasons before joining the field hockey team as a junior.

She also is president of three extracurricular activities — Inclusive Eats, Bookclub and Ephemera, the school magazine.

Inclusive Eats educates students about allergies and reminds them to be inclusive to those who may not be able to partake in treats during the holidays.

“The club’s main focus is on food allergies,” Golestan said, “so we deliver gift baskets to different grades in the Lower School with allergy friendly toys and goodies.”

Golestan and Cordle actually are co-presidents of Bookclub, where readers and creative thinkers have a space to enjoy books they want to read instead of what is assigned to them in English class.

Golestan also serves as prefect of Cavalier, one of the four school houses.

“The houses plan spirit weeks and are in charge of spreading spirit, energy and positivity around the school,” Golestan said. “My role as prefect is to make sure my group is completing their tasks well and on time. It is a lot of hard work, but the result is worth it.”

The high-energy upperclassman also is part of the global studies certificate program at the academy.

“This program allows students to become aware of the outside world through volunteer opportunities, travel opportunities, a multitude of classes and cultural events,” Golestan said. “With my parents being immigrants from the Middle East, they wanted me to be educated about the world around me. This program has done that, and so much more.”

Cordle, who has an extensive background in gymnastics, joined the SA cheerleading program in her freshman year.

“Despite the fact I was a gymnast for 10-plus years, I never tried cheerleading,” she said. “But since I had the tumbling knowledge, I figured it was the logical winter sport to participate in.

“My role as team captain is to make sure everyone is in an environment where they can (maintain) the same level of trust. But, of course, being a classic type-A person, my job is to push my teammates to their absolute limits to produce the best results possible. Whether it’s working with someone one-on-one to perfect a dance, or reworking every single chant we have, I’m willing to do it.”

Cordle has a 4.0 GPA and plans to attend Colorado College for international business.

“Despite the fact that I am no longer a competitive gymnast, my love for extreme sports has not faded,” Cordle said. “I now focus my time on competitive motorsports like karting and formula racing, as well as participating in free climbing, hiking and dancing.”

Sewickley’s four senior cheerleaders have been joined this year by juniors Julia Glance and Molly Russell, sophomores Amina Josephs and Christa Sims, and three freshmen, Isabella Ballard, Emma Ethan and Sanaa Grant.

“It sounds cheesy but the best part of cheerleading is truly the people I get to do it with,” Cordle said. “I love the team dynamic and that despite all of us being in different grades and from different walks of life, when we put on the uniform I know we’re all working toward a common goal.

“I think that team dynamic also comes out during stunting. It’s imperative everyone works together; it involves a lot of trust no matter if you’re a flier, a base or a backspot.”

Golestan also started cheering in her freshman year.

“I love everything but definitely being able to spread spirit around the school after it was in hibernation for so long,” she said. “For awhile, it felt our school’s hope was dying out. Being part of cheer and being part of the greater community gives you a new sense of the school’s livelihood.

“As cheerleaders, we work with both high schoolers and lower schoolers, using dance as a way to connect through multi-cultural and multi-generational divisions. There have been many different faces on Sewickley Academy’s cheer team; it is not the stereotypical kind of people you’d expect to see. Cheer at the academy is a way to unite through a common love of our school, and a common love of each other.”

Cheerleading season at Sewickley commences with practices in November in alignment with the other winter sports; the cheerleaders begin attending games in January.

The cheerleading squad kicks off the new year Jan. 2 at the girls basketball game with Freedom and Jan. 3 at the boys game with Northgate.

“The cheerleaders are expected to attend practices regularly and cheer for all home basketball games,” Shazer said. “They spend one hour a week working with our sports performance and wellness instructor, Sam Futrovsky, and they also bring spirit to all school assemblies.”

The 2021-2022 cheer season was the first for both Petruska and Shazer as SA coaches. Both were cheerleaders in high school and college.

“We both are Lower School teachers in addition to coaches and moms of three, and as you can imagine, this time of year can be pretty hectic,” Petruska said. “One goal we have for the team is to continue to boost school spirit while also enhancing our stunting abilities. With more cheerleaders on the team this year we are excited to have many more options for complex stunting.”

And the SA cheerleaders are anticipating being able to provide options to younger girls who have cheerleading aspirations.

“We hope to offer a Panthers Mini Cheer Camp to our Lower School students,” Shazer said, “inviting kindergarten to fifth grade students to participate in cheering for the first half of a basketball game and at the halftime show.

“We hope to have more information about this in the near future.”

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