BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — Two seniors. Only a small collection of juniors. Underclassmen throughout the lineup.
That was the makeup of this year’s Niskayuna cheer team, which improved throughout its competition season and recorded a pair of wins at major events.
“It was a very young team — and a very talented young team,” head coach Denise Squadere said.
After starting its competition season in January, the Silver Warriors wrapped up its campaign in late February with a victory in the Division I small-team category at Schenectady’s Midnight Madness event.
Earlier in the season, Niskayuna also recorded a victory at Colonie High School’s Raider Rumble and took second place in its division at the Mohonasen-hosted Suburban Council Championships.
“Nobody ever really doubted anyone else on this team,” Niskayuna senior Ashley Rosencrans said. “We went into our competitions very confident.”
The cheer season started back in August in the team’s sideline role for the football team. In early November, the squad cut its numbers to reach the 16-person roster it needed to compete in the small-team category and began readying its competition routine while still supporting the school’s boys’ basketball team at home games.
Ayo Elefontuyi and Rosencrans were the cheer team’s only seniors, athletes who delivered leadership for Squadere’s team.
“As an underclassman, you’re still struggling to get to where you want to be,” Rosencrans said. “As a senior, you feel like you’ve made it and you can be there more for the underclassmen to help them out.”
This year’s team, though, had more proven underclassmen than one might expect. Last year’s squad included a number of eighth-graders, while this season’s group also added several high-quality performers from the junior varsity ranks.
Isabella Bergami, a junior on the team, said the high number of returning athletes from last year’s squad made it easier for the Silver Warriors to jump into perfecting their routine.
“It was easier to bond because a lot of us were already on the team,” Bergami said.
“We knew we were young, but with some experience,” Squadere said.
While the team had several quality performances along the way, the Silver Warriors saved their best for last. Competing Feb. 27 at Schenectady High School in the Midnight Madness competition, Niskayuna went out a winner with a performance of its routine that merited no deductions.
“We all pulled together for that one,” Bergami said. “That was our best performance of the season.”
“That one showed us we knew who we were,” Elefontuyi said.
The 2016 season was the second for cheer in New York as a recognized sport at the state level. While the team’s seniors Elefontuyi and Rosencrans won’t be around for the 2017 campaign, both expressed the belief that next season will be even better for the Silver Warriors.
“With a younger team, you know there’s people there that can carry on the traditions you’re leaving behind,” Elefontuyi said. “They know how it works.”