North Rockland Cheer Team Makes History
Years of teamwork, determination and the indomitable Red Raiders spirit led North Rockland’s cheerleading team to achieve the unbelievable this week: they were crowned national champions after a no doubt performance in Dallas, Texas.
The team, led by coach Lauren Bunyan Gould for the past several years, blew away the competition, impressing judges and peers alike. What made their victory all the more amazing was the fact that no New York team had ever accomplished the feat, and Northeast teams are generally considered the poor step-sisters of the cheerleading world.
Not this year. North Rockland put the entire region on the map.
The Red Raiders cheerleading team isn’t your ordinary group. Many of the girls have been working together hand-in-hand since they were only five or six-years-old as part of the Pop Warner Midget Cheerleading program, which also has won national tournaments in recent years.
Gould explained, “North Rockland Cheer is a lifestyle. You have to live it, breathe it.”
Gould said the team easily could have won nationals last year, but the moment proved too big for the newcomers and they froze. Still they earned third place in the nationals in 2014, no small feat.
The Red Raiders returned most of the same team, including 15 seniors, so when nationals came around this year, the girls were laser focused on their goal and the task at hand.
The Rockland County Times caught up on Wednesday with Coach Gould and four seniors from the team: Mia Mancuso, 18, Courtney Smith, 17, Irene Greggs, 17 and Allie Garrison, 17.
Mancuso said, “Last year was an eye opener” that helped them achieve the ultimate goal this year.
Being as close to perfect as possible is the goal of any team, especially when performing before a judge. The girls’ credited their win to their precise execution of tumbling moves, as well as their coach’s decision to go with a 30 consecutive second [in cheer terms “10 8-counts]” pyramid formation. Smith said this gave the team a “wow factor” that not only brought high scores but a degree of renown amongst their peers at the tournament.
Even some of the North Rockland cheerleaders were surprised when Gould presented the 30 second pyramid formation idea to them. “Wait, are you sure,” Garrison said was her first reaction.
The North Rockland team is highly thought of by other programs in Rockland County and they take pride in their status as cheerleading role models. Mancuso said, “We are held to a higher standards. Others look up to us.”
Smith said, “Sometimes other girls in Rockland come up to our team and say they want to be like us.”
Even in Dallas, amongst the best of the best, the Red Raiders team received a similar reception. Gregg said, “I felt like a celebrity.”
Gould said she tries to keep her team humble as possible. “Other teams were praising us. I teach them to not be cocky or nasty. To be helpful.”
Cheerleaders often have to fight against the perception that their craft is more of a recreational activity than a full-blown sport. Serious cheerleaders resent this classification. The Red Raiders cheerleaders said they feel with their victory they finally have earned the respect they desire for themselves and their sport.
“I think we have to work harder than other sports because most people just see us on the sidelines. We have to prove that this is a sport,” Mancuso said.
What was it like when the team finally won? Videos display the ecstatic emotions the team felt better than any words can, but perhaps Garrison said it best: “I don’t even think words can describe.”
Bedlem broke out upon the announcement and tears were plentiful. Mancuso said, “There were so many emotion. I was crying, jumping up and down.”
Smith said, “I was overwhelmed.”
Gregg remembered, “I cried for over an hour,” however she said the fact they are national champions, “still is not processing” fully.
School was closed on Tuesday due to the great non-blizzard of 2015, so Wednesday was the first day the team got to come to North Rockland High School donning their black jackets, a wardrobe item for cheerleaders similar in concept to the championship green jacket in golf.
“Jackets are not easy to get,” Smith pointed out.
The school community has given the team tremendous support and showered congratulations upon them. An official celebratory event has not been announced but figures to be in offing soon. The football players, whom the cheerleaders rooted on during their own relatively successful football season, have been very supportive too, the girls said.
But are the boys jealous that their [mostly] lady co-travelers won the ultimate prize, while they had to settle merely for a good season?
Not this time around. Said Mancuso, “I think they are just happy we’re on the sideline.”