You walk towards the steel doors of the gym. Trophy cases displaying various different athletic trophies and memorabilia on either side of the door ways, inviting you into tradition and history. You step foot onto the freshly glossed gym floor to be greeted by a flash of bright light and sets of various different basketball hoops. Beyond those basketball hoops lie an abundance of different orange, black, and white banners showing off different athletic accolades. They wrap proudly around all the gym walls and are very hard to miss with big bold letters and numbers made to grab anyone who sets foot in the gym’s attention. But directly on the back wall are the accolades that are hard to achieve. State Championships. A team who has gotten to win a state championship has had to compete at a high level to become the best of the best. But the question is, what goes into becoming a state champion?
I contacted the Cheerleading Coach, Jill Gagne, who was the coach of the 2017 Cheerleading State Game Day Championship team and asked her some questions about her team’s success and how it was achieved.
When asked “What do you think was the main reason why your team was so successful,” Coach Gagne responded, “ The main reason this team was so successful was their unselfish attitudes. Everyone understood that their contribution was important and that no one person was more important than any other. They also were so focused on their goal! They never wavered in what they wanted to accomplish.”
Even with an optimistic team, the year was not exactly perfect for Gagne’s squad. Struggling to find numbers, the team was trying their best with what they had – and what they had packed a punch. The team consisting of Christopher Stevenson, Sarah Bisson, Jennifer Martinez, Brittany Solzak, Caroline Robitaille, Marco Gomez, Stephanie Jarvis, and Haley Dusseault were able to achieve other accolades in that 2017 year beyond the State Game Day Championship. “Prior to states we competed at the UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) Nationals at Walt Disney World and placed 3rd in the nation. It was a tremendous accomplishment for our team of 8 competing against teams with 20 cheerleaders.” said Gagne.
According to Gagne, lack of numbers was not the only challenge her squad had to face that year. While responding to the question, “What were your teams biggest struggles that year and how did you overcome it?” Gagne had this to say: “The biggest challenge the team had to face was this- A week before the state championship the team lost a team member when he had to have his appendix removed as an emergency.” – “The entire routine had to be redone and this team just took it in stride, kept their eye on the goal and worked so hard to make it happen.” Knowing that in cheerleading time is valuable the team had to get to work and perfect their craft. “Cheerleading is so unique in that you have 3 minutes on the mat to compete, there is no chance for a time out or a repeat performance. You either hit your stunts and routine or you don’t.”
“I never doubted this team for a moment,” Gagne continued.”Cheer judging is very subjective so you never know how that will go, but, this team gave the judges no choice but to score them well with the level of their performance.”
It seems as if all the confidence and hard work paid off because the end result of that season was a banner, memorialized on the walls of South Hadley High School, and a year cemented into the history books.
“This team was special,” said Gagne. “It was evident in the two seasons prior to the state championship that they were going to achieve great things.” .