Superintendent of Schools John Macero said “they” put the “Win” in Winthrop just as their shirts proclaimed. Angelo Vigliotta said “they” brought him to tears of joy when “they” won it all after two days of high-pressure competition.
They are the Winthrop High School cheerleaders who put the town on the map once again as the 2015 national cheerleading champions, a title they earned in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“Their accomplishment is just incredible,” said Macero, who accompanied the squad on its trip to South Carolina and then helped get the squad back to Boston after its original plane trip was canceled. “Winthrop is known for its championships. The last time we had a national champion was Mike Eruzione. Here we have a national champion – our Winthrop High School cheerleaders.”
When the squad heard its school name called at the awards ceremony, it erupted in glee. Some laughed, some cried, all caught up in the enormity of their achievement.
“The beauty of this group was how humble they were,” said Macero. “They are a very solid group. These girls became a family and worked well together. You could see their main focus was just on their performance. You have to applaudnot only the coaches, Rachel Mustone and Stephanie Bono, but also Jess Vigliotta for her leadership as a captain. She was the only senior on the team, so overall you had a young group. To be able to get them to click the way they did, was incredible.”
For Jess Vigliotta, it was the perfect way to end her cheerleading career that began 10 years ago in the Winthrop Youth Football and Cheerleading organization. Vigliotta joined the varsity squad in the eighth grade, the first year that Mustone became the head coach.
“I ended on a high note and it was just a huge accomplishment for our team,” said Vigliotta. “We faced a ton of adversity throughout the season but what makes us a really special team is being able to push through. It was interesting to watch my younger teammates become really excited about cheerleading and wanting to win. I watched this program grow the last five years and to see us become national champions in five years is such an achievement.”
Vigliotta said that Mustone’s excellent coaching was crucial to the squad’s success.
“Coach Rachel has watched me grow as a person and an athlete,” said Vigliotta. “We’ve all learned so much from Rachel, not only cheerleading but life skills. She really taught me to push for my dreams and set goals and achieve them. She’s done that with a smile and with enthusiasm. She believed in our team when we didn’t believe in ourselves. That type of support made us unbeatable.”
Jess also thanked her parents, Angelo and Gabriella, who were among the key fundraisers for the squad.
“They’ve been my biggest support system over the past four years in my entire high school career – cheerleading, academics, my other extracurricular activities,” said Jess, who is the statewide secretary to the Massachusetts Student Council. “They stepped up in Myrtle Beach to help find us a way home. They’ve shown me how much they care about what I care about and that means a lot to me.
The Winthrop squad won the Northeastern Conference grand championship for the first time and then performed very well in the regionals and state finals where they qualified for the nationals
Mustone said she had a good feeling about the squad’s potential at the first practices.
“The team dynamic was definitely a lot different,” said Mustone. “We had some really hungry freshmen who came in with good coaching from our outstanding youth program. We had a lot of experienced cheerleaders who were a little bit more mentally prepared and ready and very hungry for the title. I knew by their performance in the Beverly Invitational and how amazing they were, that they were capable of doing something really special.”
Mustone said the squad was grateful to the parent boosters club that helped raise funds for the trip to the nationals.
“Our booster club is amazing – they go above and beyond,” said Mustone. “We had some really generous donors like Mike Eruzione and Winthrop Charities, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Massport, who was huge two years in a row. And the Winthrop Marketplace was always opening its doors to us to raise funds and do what we needed. They donated gift certificates to our big fundraiser. Over the last two years ago the Marketplace has given us unsung support.”
There were a few anxious moments when the return plane trip to Winthrop was canceled at the last minute, but with a big assist from Viking Pride and its chairman, Vinnie Crossman, the squad returned to town to a police escort and with memories that will last a lifetime.
And there is a permanent tribute in the works for the national champions. Macero said there are plans to erect a sign in the town that will recognize the squad’s achievement.