Mattituck cheerleaders heading to county championship

In just their second season of competition, the Mattituck-Cutchogue Junior-Senior High School’s cheerleading team is heading to this year’s Suffolk County Cheerleading Championship on Saturday, Feb. 18.

That’s no small feat, especially given that more than half of the 20-girl squad are freshmen.

“I felt so proud of my teammates knowing that for most of them, this is just the start of their cheerleading career,” Claire Nemschick, one of the team’s captains, said of making it to the county championship. “That I was able to do it with them for my senior year — and only Mattituck’s second year competing — it felt so amazing.” 

Since so many girls tried out this year, team coach Tiffany Pelczar decided to enter the D2 Large division, increasing the squad from 15 to 20 cheerleaders. To qualify for the county championship, teams must place in the top 50% of their division, based on the average scores of six regular season competitions. With an average score of 61.37 in six regular season matches, Mattituck ranked second of three teams in the D2 Large category, which includes Shoreham-Wading River in first place and Harborfields in third. For the upcoming competition, teams must prepare a 2 1/2-minute performance, consisting of a variety of stunts, pyramids, tumbling and dance, plus a traditional cheer segment.

Gearing up for Saturday’s competition, the Mattituck team continues to practice two hours every day Monday to Friday, plus a second open tumbling session on Tuesdays. With each competition through the season, the team aimed to up the ante with regards to the difficulty and precision of their routines. For the county championship, the team is developing new twisting stunts higher in the air and new tumbling passes. 

Nemschick, who competed with North Fork Cheer, an independent team based in Cutchogue, from age 7 through 14, said she is impressed that her teammates constantly ask their coach how they can improve individually to support the whole unit. In spite of this dedication, though, Nemschick noted that some of her teammates “got some heat from their friends” who claimed that cheerleading is not a real sport.

Nemschick said she knows better.

“We have all the crazy tumbling portions and then we have all the dance, and we really have to be tight,” she said. “We have to hone all of our muscles. It takes a lot of core strength, and not only that, but mental strength because you really have to trust your teammates and put your life in their hands because you can get some crazy injuries.”

Should they come out of the county championship victorious, the Mattituck cheerleaders will advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Competitive Cheerleading Championships, which will take place March 4 in Binghamton. Regardless of how they perform, they can look back on a satisfying run.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Pelczar said. “I’m really looking forward to them competing one last time. I’m just really hoping they end on a high note and I hope they feel really confident about the performance they put out.”