Shaler Area spirit team earns spot at PIAA championships

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Thursday, January 10, 2019 | 7:57 PM


Mya D’Amico knew time was of the essence for the Shaler Area competitive spirit team.

Because of the way the schedule was set up, the Titans would only have a week to prepare for the PIAA medium division championships in Hershey.

Shaler, which placed third at WPIALs Jan. 5 at Hempfield High School, had taken advantage of having time last year to clean up its routine and win the small division state championship.

With less time before states, the results of which were too late for this edition, D’Amico wanted to take advantage of every minute.

“We made sure there was no down time,” D’Amico said. “We were continuously running stunts and going through the routine. It’s difficult because you get tired faster. It’s nice because you are getting stuff done and working toward something you want.”

Shaler coach Phyllis Schatz didn’t feel major changes were needed. At WPIALs, Shaler finished behind Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Regional.

The Titans wanted to clean up a few minor issues.

“Just a couple of things,” Schatz said. “There were some motions I didn’t like, and I wanted to make sure the tumbling hit all their stunts.”

Putting in work toward a goal was something a young Titans’ squad has focused on all season. Shaler lost six members of its state championship team to graduation.

Captains Sydney Kushik and D’Amico are the team’s only seniors.

“We had to teach the freshman we got on how the stunting works that we lost from the people that left the team,” D’Amico said.

In early December, Shaler showcased its potential by winning the Universal Cheerleaders Association Allegheny Regional at Slippery Rock out of a field of 10 teams.

Kushik was especially happy at the event that a few of their teammates from last year came back to support them.

“I know a lot of us were worried because a lot of those girls were seniors on our team last year,” Kushik said. “Knowing we were able to hit a clean routine (at Slippery Rock) and having girls from last year be there was a big deal. They said you brought the sharpness in cheerleading this year. It was like ‘Wow, we are good.’ ”

Schatz seems a lot of parallels between this season and last year.

“I think they’ll do well,” said Schatz on her thoughts for the state meet. “I have five brand new girls competing out of the 16. I think they are motivated to do well. They never complain and always want to practice. Going into states, they have the drive to succeed.”

Having the desire to succeed let to spirited practices.

It helped develop an attitude Shaler hopes will result in more hardware for its trophy case.

“I think we’ll have to hit a perfect routine and make sure we are leading the crowd and putting off energy so we are comfortable the whole time,” D’Amico said.

Kushik just wants to avoid looking tired. Shaler has done so by trying to accelerate their energy and pace.

“I think we use the crowd, honestly,” Kushik said. “When you can feel the energy and crowd cheering for you feel not as tired. You want to put on the best routine you can.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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