Last year, when the Melrose High School football team began its successful run up to the championships, something special happened: The band and the cheerleaders started working together, with the cheerleaders aiming cheers at the band and the band returning them.
As it turns out, that was just the beginning.
“I think it showed how close-knit our community is,” said cheerleading captain Meaghan DelGenio, “seeing everybody come together for our team to go to the Super Bowl—the last time it happened, my uncle was on the team. Once that happened, the band started incorporating their songs and chants with the cheers, which caused the crowd to cheer louder, and that created a great environment.”
So this year, they started working together over the summer. “We definitely wanted to work together to get the fans and the crowd coming together at the game,” said DelGenio.
That’s not the only thing that’s special about this year’s cheerleading team: This is the first year the team has competed in competitions, rather than just exhibiting—a goal they have been working toward for several years. DelGenio and her co-captains, Maddie Zarzour and Kylie Persons, were cheerleaders in middle school and went to the national competition in 2012, so when they came to high school they were determined that the high school team would compete as well.
In order to prepare, they supplemented their regular practices with private lessons and encouraged students with prior experience in cheering and tumbling to go out for the team. As a result, this year’s team is bigger than in previous years, and the skill level is higher. They took part in Cheer for a Cure in October and the Middlesex League competition in November. While they didn’t make it to the regionals, Zarzour said, “As a team we did really well.”
The team stepped up in other ways as well. “Once we found out last year that we were going to be captains, we had an idea of what we wanted to accomplish,” said DelGenio. “We got new uniforms this year, new pompoms, we had signs made by the United Cheer Association. This year was starting over and striving for the best.” There’s no chitchat on the field—when they are waiting to cheer, they “stand clean,” Persons said, with their hands behind their backs.
They hope that attitude will stick around after they graduate. “I have been on this team since I was a freshman,” said Persons. “Every year have wanted to compete, but we hadn’t got there yet. Once we became captains we really pushed our coach to have that happen, and now we are into it these younger girls loved it, loved competing
“It definitely wasn’t easy to get to this point,” said Zarzour, “but now they have seen we can do it, that if we put in effort and time it is achievable, it has definitely set the tone going forward.”