Portsmouth cheerleaders are tops in the state

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PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth High School competitive cheerleading team came into this year’s season wearing new uniforms and performing new routines. And, after demonstrating their talent at the R.I. State Cheerleading Competition on Saturday, they took home a state title.

After working all season to perfect their two-and-one-half minute routine of tumbles, pyramids and basket-catches, the 15 members of Portsmouth’s competition cheerleading team were named the best in the state in the large division, beating out second-place Mt. Hope and runners-up Toll Gate, Cumberland, Woonsocket and LaSalle.

“They hit all the key movements,” said coach Deb Valente after watching the girls perform. “They’re amazing. They’ve done a lot of work.”

Throughout the day, 22 Rhode Island high schools competed in the all-girl competition in either the large, small or medium divisions. In addition, three schools sent a co-ed team, and two schools had a junior varsity squad.

For Portsmouth, the win meant that all their hard work and routine changes finally paid off.

“This is the best season I’ve ever had,” said team member Eden Younkin.

The win surprised senior Kaitlan Mitchell who, after years of watching LaSalle excel at the sport, was finally part of the number-one team.

“I didn’t expect it. We pulled it out together,” she said.

The time spent on perfecting their routines and in competition has created a bond among teammates and even opposing teams. Win or lose, their friendships remain.

“With us,” said Macy Walz, “our team is our family.”

The team now goes on to compete in the New England Regionals Saturday, March 22, at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Mass. “They usually do very well there, and there’s very little pressure,” said Ms. Valente.

Here are all the members of this year’s PHS Competition Cheerleading Team: Sabrina Aguiar, Lauren Aleicho, Kaitlyn Arruda, Kilee Bryan, Jenna Carruba, Brianna Dublin, Janelle Dublin, Hannah Fleming, Veronica Kelly, Victoria La Fleur, Jillian LaBonte, Kristie Lee, Amber McCollum, Erynn McGeown, Kaitlan Mitchell, Gabriella Murphy, Mikaela Pedersen, Kayla Santos, Ashley Underhill, Macy Walz and Eden Younkin.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.