WHS Cheerleading Team Qualifies for State Championships

The Winthrop High cheerleading team, under the direction of first-year co-head coaches Emily Bitchell and Briana Hogan, is heading to the Massachusetts State Championships Sunday at Worcester State University.

Winthrop’s 11 athletes qualified for the finals after taking fourth place in the North Regionals at Billeri-ca High School last Sunday. Winthrop will be competing against 12 other schools in its division at the state finals.

Bitchell said the team began preparing for the sea-son in late August and the girls participate in two-hours-plus practices five or six times a week.

The team has worked on a specific, two-minute, 30-second routine for competitions. “Our routine features stunts, tumbling, jumps, cheers, and dance,” said Bitchell. “Scott Rigoli was our choreographer.”

The cheerleaders’ accomplishment of qualifying for States is especially impressive when you consider that the team lost six seniors to graduation and was coming off a season that was greatly impacted by the pandemic.

“I think overall this has been one of my favorite seasons,” said team captain Emily Rodriguez. “After losing six awesome seniors and our coaches at the end of last season, we thought this year was going to be a rebuilding year.”

However, because of its talent and teamwork, the Winthrop contingent has risen to the point where a state championship is within reach.

 Rodriguez believes the team clicked well on the big stage of Regionals. “We truly underestimated our potential until we hit a full routine at regionals,” said the talented senior who has 10 years of cheerleading experience. “Walking off the mats knowing you hit a full-out is genuinely one of the best feelings. We believed we could qualify after hitting that routine because everyone recognized how strong of a team we are.”

Rodriguez credited coaches Bitchell and Hogan for coming into a new program and building confidence and a positive atmosphere team-wide.

“I can honestly say that the coaches have made this the best season,” said Rodriguez. “While they push us during practice, they always stay positive.  They have only been my coaches for one year, but they have had such a big impact that I’m truly emotional about leaving them. I have grown not only a cheerleader, but also as a person during this season.”

Rodriguez is one of only two seniors on the Winthrop team. The other senior is Rebecca Lindstedt, an exchange student from Sweden. “She’s amazing,” said Bitchell.

Team captain Annika Holgersen also praised the coaches’ leadership and dedication to the team.

“I would like to thank them for believing in us,” said Holgersen. “Our season was very uncertain at first, but with the positive mindset the coaches had, it encouraged my teammates and me to keep pushing. They always viewed our progress and downfalls with hope. I owe the accomplishments we made this season to them.”

Holgersen was selected as a captain as a junior.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be a junior captain,” said Holgersen. “I feel as if this position requires me to step up a lot more, especially with a young team.”

 Bitchell said her team, which consists of only three cheerleaders who had been in competitions before this season, has exceeded expectations. Winthrop won an early-season invita-tional tournament, but now prepares for the biggest event of the 2021 campaign.

 “I’m so proud of them,” said Bitchell. “They’ve done an amazing job. They’re young, they’re talented. We as coaches thought it was going to be more of a building, growth year, but they have pleasantly surprised us. They’re doing awesome.”

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