The Seaford High School cheerleading team is making a habit of producing winning squads, earning a bid to the 2023 National High School Cheerleading Championship.
Each year since 2013, the team has won a spot at the nationals, which will be held at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., from Feb. 10 to 12.
Cheerleading teams perform on the sidelines at football games, but once the season is over in November, the cheer squads enter their own competitions.
Cheerleading is a year-round sport, with regional and national championships taking place at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, respectively, and county and state championships to follow. All of this wraps up in early March, and the teams begin practicing again in April.
The Seaford High School squad practices four nights a week to prepare for competitions and the season, rehearsing cheer stunts with their stunt coach for three hours. With summer workout, which includes running and conditioning training, the Seaford High School cheer team seems to be among the school’s most dedicated athletes.
Taylor DiFondi, a senior cheerleader, discussed the key to getting through the year-round cheer season.
“Physically, it’s difficult, but overall you just have to have a good mindset about it,” DiFondi said. “As long as you have a good mindset and your mind is in the right place, you can do anything you put your mind to, no matter what you’re given.”
Sophia Sampogna, a senior in her fifth year on the varsity cheer team, said she took an interest in cheerleading when she first moved to Seaford, in the first grade.
“I wanted to join cheer because it’s what a lot of people did,” Sampogna said, “and the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it.”
Lisa Ferrari and Brenda Martin coach the varsity team. Ferrari, who started teaching social studies at Seaford in 2007, has coached the cheer team for the past 15 years. Seeing how the Seaford community is driven around sports, Ferrari said she wanted to be a part of that and has set high expectations for the team. With multiple national championship trips, the team has certainly lived up to that high bar.
“We set a goal for ourselves every single year that we walk into the gym,” Ferrari said. “There are times when we’ve graduated 15 girls from the year before. My expectations for them are always a lot more than their expectations even for themselves because I feel like as a coach for this long, I’ve been able to see the potential in all of them, and be able to push them past where they think they can go.”
Martin, in her third year coaching for the Seaford program and in her second year as the assistant varsity coach, said that each year, the team strives to be better.
“We really have been focusing on executing, cleaning up the caliber of stunts and trying to keep pushing each year,” she said.
Over the last seven years, there have been six county championships, with the pandemic voiding all competition in 2020, and Seaford has won five of them. The varsity team consists of 26 girls, with 11 of them being seniors.
Last year, the cheer team reached the highest level at nationals, coming in second in the country. They then returned home and secured another county championship and then ultimately a state championship, which was a huge accomplishment for the team and a major achievement for the Seaford program and school district. Team members said they are looking to repeat their success again this year.
Kayla Fallarino-Forte, a member of the varsity team since she was in the eighth grade, said she can attest to the hard work the girls put forth each year.
“Each year, we just keep improving,” Fallarino-Forte said. “Last year, we started off a little rocky, but as the season went on, we got better and better because we learned how to hit our routine and we peaked at the right moment at nationals. This year, we just have to keep doing that and go on the same schedule and peak at nationals.”