ROCHESTER — Starpoint rose to the occasion on the big stage once again with a hard-earned fourth place finish in the Division II Large Division at the NYSPHSAA Cheerleading Championships on Saturday at RIT.

Appearing in their third consecutive championships, the Lady Spartans squeaked into the finals with 82.6 points, good enough for fifth place and a berth in the finals, which are awarded to the top five teams in the preliminary round. Starpoint posted a score of 80.95 in the finals, finishing 12.68 points behind group champion Mount Sinai from Suffolk County.

Two other Niagara County teams earned invites to the Championships, which were held at the Gordon Field House. Lewiston-Porter scored 77.25 in the preliminary round in the D-2 Small classification and finished in sixth place after winning the state crown in 2019.

The Lockport coed squad ended the day in seventh place after tallying 77.43 points, a mere 0.25 points out of fifth and an opportunity to move on to the finals. This was the Lions’ first appearance at the state finals.

Also, NYSPHSAA officials presented sportsmanship awards to a representative from each team in the competition, including Starpoint sophomore Megan Kelly, Lewiston-Porter junior Kelcey Doyle and Lockport senior Anthony Haak.

Starpoint coach Jena Zubricki faced considerable personnel changes in assembling her team after finishing sixth in last year’s finals.

“Our team is really young this year, and more than half of them didn’t compete with us at the state championships in 2019. That’s nerve-wracking as a coach, because you never know how they’re going to do under pressure. Like everyone else, we faced injuries and illnesses, but our girls have gotten good at stepping into different roles and doing what’s needed to benefit the team.”

For the Lions, it was important to live in the moment while competing at such a high level.

“In my 10th year of coaching here, I couldn’t be prouder of how far this program has come,” said head coach Jackie McClean. “My coaching staff came to the finals last year, and we knew our kids had the skills to perform at this level. We emphasized it at every practice, and the kids did it.”

Coaches cited the importance of forging strong bonds with other cheerleading programs from Western New York.

“Our sport requires involvement from the crowd, and there’s no better way to get people to cheer with you than to make friends, bond with them, and support each other,” Zubricky said. “As a coach, I want my athletes to be fierce competitors, but more importantly, I want them to be kind people.”

“From a technical standpoint, it’s really helpful for us to call other coaches if we have a question about our performance or the scoring rubric,” McClean added.

A total of 10 teams from Section VI participated in the championships. Besides the Niagara County squads, Western New York was represented by Maryvale, who are state champions in D-2 Small, Lancaster (sixth in D-1 Large), Clarence (sixth in D-1 Small), Frontier (seventh in D-1 Large), Iroquois (seventh in D-2 Large), Orchard Park (ninth in D-1 Small), and Lake Shore (ninth in CoEd).

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