Although the Greenwich High School cheerleading team didn’t come home with the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship trophy Saturday afternoon, it was hard to tell with all the smiles on the faces of head coach Mary Anne Catalano and rest of the Lady Cardinals.
Competing in front of a packed house at Fairfield Warde High School, Greenwich finished the competition third overall with 145.3 points. Winning the championship for the second consecutive season and third time in four years was Fairfield Ludlowe High School, netting 156.1 points overall. Just beating out Greenwich and grabbing the silver was St. Joseph High School with 145.3 points.
Trumbull High School took fourth overall with 130.1 points and Fairfield Warde rounded out the top five with a score of 128.0.
“We are thrilled,” Catalano said. “It’s always so hard because you don’t know if you’re going to hit everything, whether you’re going to fall, whether the music will stop and whether you’re prepared enough for the other team. I really think we scored big on everything. They hit everything, looked beautiful, they were tight, their tumbling was wonderful and everything was good. It was amazing to me.”
While Catalano was thrilled with the outcome, it was easy to see the girls were feeling good about their performance. And that was even before the routine came to an end.
“You could tell halfway through the performance that they knew they were going to do well,” Catalano said. “The further into the performance, the stronger they got. They looked lighter on their feet, hit every mark and were smiling from ear-to-ear. Coming off the mat, they saw that I was jumping up and down and two of the captains came up to me and were jumping next to me. Then the whole team came. We knew we did well and were hoping to get into the top three.”
Every year the Greenwich High cheerleading team doesn’t shy away from challenges and this year is certainly no exception. Big Red’s routine, full of difficult tumbling and stunting combinations, was a blast from the past, as they cheered to the music of Grease.
“Last year when we were at states, the DJ played Grease Lightning and everybody stood up and were dancing,” Catalano said. “I turned over to my daughter Shannon and said that we are doing Grease Lightning. She was surprised at first and several people weren’t too sure, but our choreographer lit up when he heard our music for the first time and the girls were awesome. When the girls first heard the music, they were unsure and I started to feel bad, but as the weeks went on and they got used to it, and heard it more and more, they enjoyed working on it. At FCIACs, we scored very high marks on our theme.”
According to Catalano, the strength this year’s team is the leadership of its senior class and especially the captains.
This year Big Red is led by captains Erin Andrews, Kaitlyn Cunningham, Carly Goldstein and Caroline Vaccari.
The other GHS seniors that helped the underclassmen grow are Lauren Bria, Keri Bozzuto, Hailey Pedicano, Kendra Clarke, Gabby DeLorenzo and Jana Bartomioli.
“I have a lot of freshmen that are competing with me this year and the upperclassmen are incredible,” Catalano said. “They aren’t letting the rest of the team slack off. They are on them all day making sure that we can do things. They are confident and the freshmen look up to them. As the season progressed, the freshmen got stronger and stronger. They were listening to the upperclassmen and it was obvious to see.”
Catalano admitted that with the high amount of freshmen on the roster, having such a difficult routine made her a bit nervous.
“It was nerve-racking, but I knew that I had a lot of talent on the team,” Catalano said. “My job is to make sure the puzzle fits. I took it very slow at first to make sure the freshmen were comfortable. Then I gave them a week off between football and basketball and that really helped them. T
Another strength for the Lady Cardinals is the team’s ability to stay well-conditioned throughout football and competition seasons.
“It’s a really hard routine,” Catalano said. “There’s a lot of tumbling and stunting and they were in great shape. Physically they looked like athletes. They are strong and work out and it was good to see that after the routine that they weren’t tired.”
In addition to Big Red’s high marks, Catalano got a surprise honor. For the first time in her 11 years as head coach of Greenwich High, Catalano was named the FCIAC Coach of the Year. In addition to the nerves of watching her team compete at such a high level, Catalano was under the weather during FCIACs. During a break in the action, she sat down at the judge’s table to relax for a few moments. It was then when the judges called the GHS head coach’s name over the loud speaker to receive the Coach of the Year honor.
“When they called my name, I couldn’t believe it,” Catalano said. “It was a shock and I was honored. I always wondered what it was like to be that person that wins the award and now I know. The finals take a lot out of you and it’s such an emotional day. My goal is to have the girls come off the mat and not cry and apologize because they thought they could have done better. That’s exactly what happened. They were thrilled with the outcome, just like I was. I was simply shocked and I told the girls on the bus that I wouldn’t have gotten the award if it wasn’t for them. They are awesome girls.”
While Greenwich was thrilled with the performance at FCIACs, there’s still more work to be done. During the second weekend in March, Big Red will board the bus to New Haven and travel to the Floyd Little Athletic Center for competition in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL championship meet.
“We have to work on our arm motions and jumps, but other than that, we scored high in everything at FCIACs,” Catalano said. “States is going to be like another FCIAC finals because we are up against Danbury, Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde and Trumbull. I gave them off the next two weeks to regroup and get back in shape, because they were really hurting the past week. We are going to look at the scoresheets and work harder than ever to raise those scores a little more.”