By Gianna Addario
---- — For the eighth time in nine years, the Danvers High cheerleading team is headed back to the Winter Cheerleading State Championship.
Only a few teams from each division get the opportunity to move onto states, and Danvers and Beverly are among the lucky teams in Division 2. Both squads are set to compete at states on Sunday, which are held at Tantasqua Regional High School (10 a.m.).
Beverly and Danvers will compete against 23 other teams from across Massachusetts between the Division 1 and Division 2 brackets. Danvers is slated to compete eighth, while Beverly will showcase its routine in the 16th slot.
Led by captains Carla Poitras, Kaylyn Powers, Julia Saggese and Grace LoPilato, the Falcons placed second with a score of 165.75 at the Northeastern Conference Large competition in February to qualify for this weekend’s competition.
“This team really had to work hard from the start to get where they are,” said Danvers head coach Sherri Blais. “This was a building year for us, or so I thought. The team surprised me with how far they had come in such a short time. I had to be tough on this team, but I knew what they were capable of. Both as a team, as well as individuals.”
For the Panthers, this is the third time in four seasons that they’ve made it to the statewide event, by placing first in Division 2 at the NEC Large competition.
Like Blais, Beverly coach Danielle Roback has stressed to her team that working hard pays off in the end.
“I think I’ve pushed this team harder than I’ve ever pushed my teams in the past,” said Roback, who also coaches football cheerleading in the fall. “I gathered them on the very first day of practice and told them that this season was going to be different. There has always been that one minor thing that has allowed other teams to edge us out, or has kept us from qualifying or reaching our goals.
“Now our goal is to finish within the top five and qualify for a nationals bid, which requires an overall score of 160. If we hit our routine and they leave their hearts out on the mat, I don’t see how this won’t happen. This team is different because they want it, and they know they have put in the work to deserve it.”
The judges look for that type of confidence that both Beverly and Danvers show throughout their routines, which only increases their scoring totals.
Beverly has been working since early December for this two-minute performance. The Panthers had a rough outing this past weekend at Regionals, but Roback believes that it will only benefit the girls on Sunday.
“I think that not performing our best at Regionals really put this fact into perspective for the girls, and they don’t want this opportunity to slip away from them,” Roback said. “Cheerleading is a funny sport. You practice for hours upon hours, for months and months, and it all comes down to just two minutes on a mat — literally.”