It’s been quite a while since there was a varsity-level squad cheering on other local high school sports teams at Manchester Essex Regional High School.
“It was a varsity sport in the early 2000s,” explains MERHS cheer coach Casey Economo. “They won leagues in 2003 and 2004. We became varsity again this fall season. The school board – along with some very kind parents – voted to make us a varsity sport.”
The change was evident all season long to those who attended ME football games at Hyland Field this season, and should be on display in a competitive format in the coming week: The Hornets spent the last week preparing for the Cape Ann League Meet, slated for Nov. 3 at North Reading High School (6:30 p.m.). It’s the first time in a long time that the Hornets have been able to compete at this level.
“We compete in a league meet and you get scored on your routine by difficulty, motions, jumps and dance,” says Economo. “We learned a routine at the end of August and have been practicing it since.”
The Hornets have spent a lot of time preparing since the end of August – a total of four practices a week are aimed at prepping for postseason competitions such as this – and the team scheduled a preview of the finished product for local fans for Nov. 1.
“We did have an injury on the team and needed to change a lot these past two weeks, and the girls have been so good and patient with learning the new things added to the routine,” explains Economo. “We will be showcasing the routine [on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.] at the high school, family and friends are welcome.”
For the past few years, the cheer team was considered a club sport – as opposed to a sanctioned varsity sport – meaning the team wasn’t eligible to be involved in major events like the CAL Meet. Within the past year, however, interest in the sport and the program increased to a level where it made sense to bring it back to the varsity level at MERHS.
“This past year we had a lot of interest in the cheering program,” says Economo. “We have 30 girls on the team. We run two programs through cheering: one is game day, which is all the girls cheering and stunting football games. We have a competition team which is made up of 13 girls. These girls have a competition routine that they compete with at leagues.”
The Hornets are led by captains Allie Delaney, Ella Aieta and Caroline Doucette.
“I was not part of the program when choosing captains, but they are very strong, independent young ladies that truly stepped into the captain position,” says Economo.
In a sport where making great leaps is commonplace, the team has made a similar jump – metaphorically speaking – over the course of the fall.
“This year, the program was a rebuilding time and teaching year,” explains Economo. “The girls have all stepped up to be where they are today. Their stunting skills have improved so much and I'm so proud of them from when I started coaching this past fall.
She adds: “They have put so much effort and time into it; even when they are tired or not feeling great, they always put in 110%.”
Local fans have noticed those efforts as well.
“The community has been so supportive and proud of these young ladies every game I get compliments on how far they have come since last year,” says Economo, adding, “My goal for the cheering program is to continue to grow and excel and teach all I can to these wonderful ladies.“