English girls give school something to cheer about

English’s All-Americans are, front, from left, captain Ashley Connors, captain, Ally Furtado, captain Carina Sansone and captain Erin Ring; rear, Amy Melendez, Jacianna Lights, Gea Chicon, Hayley Manalaysay, Hailey Burke, Alyx Nelson, Hannah Trahant and Vanessa Paul. (English cheerleading team)

LYNN — The Lynn English cheerleading squad has big goals.

The Bulldogs have their sights set on competing in the National Cheerleaders Association National Championship, and took the first step toward earning a trip to Texas in January over the summer.

During the preseason, cheerleading team typically attend different camps. The Bulldogs shipped down to the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, RI to attend a NCA camp, and they turned some heads while they were there.

The camp consists of what coach Stephanie McClellan calls “typical preseason stuff,” like stunts and jumps.

“It gets you prepared for the season,” McClellan said.

The girls must also put together a mini routine to perform at the end of camp, competing against other teams. The Bulldogs earned first place in the performance division and earned best overall team accolades. The honors mean that the Bulldogs have cleared the first hurdle toward getting to Texas. Throughout the four days, English met all of the criteria to earn a bid to compete in Texas for a national championship.

The bid does not automatically mean that the Bulldogs will be headed down South, however. It’s the first bar to clear, and without clearing that hurdle, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to go. But English will still have to win in the conference and at regionals, and then place in the top seven at states.

The Bulldogs aren’t strangers to the national stage, however. Two years ago, English reached nationals as a co-ed team. But this year, under McClellan in her second season at the helm of the squad, they’re looking to go as an all-girls team.

The English group turned heads at camp. Instructors took notice of the Bulldogs’ proficiency in the techniques they were teaching. McClellan said that English would often get more difficult exercises and drills to perform once they mastered the basics.

English really showed how well it works together as a team on the final day. After arranging a routine to perform, the Bulldogs ran into a speed bump when a few members of the team physically could not remove their earrings, and it’s against the rules to wear jewelry during the performance.

“The girls even went to a jewelry store down the street, and even they couldn’t get them out,” McClelland said. “The girls were devastated, but they sat back and understood that at that point, the way they could help their team was to make suggestions and cheer them on.”

With half a day left to re-choreograph their routine, the Bulldogs had a lot on their plate. But they pulled it off, and nabbed a first-place finish.

“It was nice to see them come together like that,” McClelland said. “They worked great together as a team, and showed off our strength, which is stunting.”

The honor was a big boost for McClellan and the Bulldogs heading into the school year.

“There were a bunch of great teams at camp,” McClellan said. “It was great to get a feeling about how your team is doing, and great to see we were doing well and exceeding our own expectations.”

The Bulldogs received some individual accolades at camp as well. Twelve of the 17 cheerleaders were nominated as All-American cheerleaders, earning them the opportunity to attend special events, like the Thanksgiving Parade at Disney World and a parade in London.

“You get nominated for outstanding jump, stunting capabilities, tumbling techniques…you have to show a complete 360 of what a cheerleader should be,” McCllellan said. “Sportsmanship, athleticism, leading a crowd.”

McClellan added that whether or not some of the girls will attend these events depends on how the season is going and how they feel at the time.

Also receiving an honor was senior captain Ashley Connors, who earned the Top Gun Tumbler, or the top tumbler at camp.

“She was surprised and excited, and felt really good about it,” McClellan said.

The preseason successes at camp give the Bulldogs some confidence heading into the football season. This year will have some added excitement, since Classical will be competing as well.

“We’re super excited to have another team in town competing so we can cheer them on,” McClelland said. “We love to see other teams and have those experiences, learn tips and tricks to improve on our performance.”

After missing making the state competition by just .8 points last season, English has a chip on its shoulder as well.

“Coming off camp, it was the first time we got to be together to perform as a team,” McClellan said. “It set a tone for the season, and the girls have come into the first week of practices working extremely hard.”

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