Calhoun High School’s cheerleading team celebrated a series of firsts this season. It was the first time that two male cheerleaders competed with the Colts in the Division I Co-Ed category. It was the first year that the team made it to the Nassau County Section 8 Championship at Wantagh High School— and won its division. And it was the first time that the squad competed at the New York State Cheerleading Championship in Syracuse.
The Colts were undefeated going into the state championships, surpassing Valley Stream North High School, last year’s county winner, at each competition.
“I knew when they were freshmen and sophomores … that they were the kind of team that would be undefeated,” said coach Chrissy Meisalas, who has instructed the squad for six years, as members progressed from the junior varsity to varsity levels.
Corrine Morales, one of four captains, noted that the team has come a long way. “Our routine freshman year was just basic stunts,” she said.
Morales added that she was grateful that her team had the opportunity to perform at the state championship, regardless of how the squad placed.
The Colts marked a milestone when they recently recruited Christian Concepcion, Calhoun’s first competitive male cheerleader, Meisalas said. Concepcion had friends on the team who knew he enjoyed dancing and encouraged him to apply his skills to their routines. He was reluctant at first, fearing that he might face backlash because he was the only male on the team. When his peers saw him perform at basketball games, however, they treated him like a celebrity, he said.
“They’d say, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’” Concepcion said, “It’s different. It’s something new.”
Meisalas said that after Concepcion started cheering, she saw a spike in the number of male students asking to join the team, including senior Nick Catalupo, who plays football in the fall and cheered with the Colts for the first time this season.
In April 2014, the New York State School Boards Association approved cheerleading as a sport. Since then, Calhoun’s team captains said they have noticed a shift in how they have been received by the school administration and student body.
They went from practicing in the hallway and outside in the snow to getting an ample amount of gym time and having the support of their peers. “It’s proven to everyone that we do just as much as [Calhoun’s] other teams,” said Co-captain Quinn Chao. “We’re not just standing there and looking pretty. We’re [involved in] a physically draining sport.”
Co-captain Lizzie Shein agreed and said that she was able to leave last fall’s pep rally knowing that so many of the students in the audience were engaged in their routine and chanting along with them. “It’s one of the best feelings, to be respected,” she said.
The graduating seniors on the team shared their hopes to keep cheerleading in their futures. Concepcion will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan in the fall, where he plans to start the school’s first cheerleading club.
Co-captain Victoria Devito said that she would do the same if the school she decides on doesn’t already have its own program. She, though, is still working out where she will go and said hopes to attend a school with a cheer program. “I can’t imagine not going to cheer practice every day,” she said.