Ponaganset cheerleading squad

The members of the Division III champion Ponaganset High cheerleading squad are, in front from left, Justice Gouin, Ella Dexter, Skyla Picard, and Sara Sepe; in back, Olivia Crum, Nicolina Diamanté, Payton Adams, Julia Bruno, Victoria Scungio, Celina Pimentel, Ava Polseno, Allison Berger, Olivia Santos, head coach Meghan White, and assistant coach Isabella Corio.

GLOCESTER – Suffering a heartbreaking loss to North Smithfield in last spring’s RIIL Division II championships did not sit well with the Ponaganset High cheerleading squad. Neither did placing a close second to Lincoln – by only 0.4 of a point – at the RICCA Division III competition on March 5 in the Chieftains’ gym.

“But the kids were not sad,” admitted head coach Meghan White. “They used (finishing second to Lincoln) as motivation to put in the work they needed (in the days) leading up to the RIIL Championships.”

And that hard work certainly paid dividends. Competing in the state competition seven days later at the Providence Career & Technical Academy, the Chieftains captured the D-III title with an incredible performance that impressed everyone in the field house and helped them topple the Lions.

“We battled all season long with Lincoln, pushing each other every step,” noted White, whose assistant coach is Isabella Corio. “It was a tough fight between the two schools. But it came down to that state championship day – that moment. Our cheerleaders gave it everything they had; they left it all on the mat and it paid off.”

The championship was the first for the Chieftains since they won the RICCA Division III title and RIIL Medium Schools championship two years ago before COVID struck that March and shut down the sports world.

White noted that last year, due to COVID and minimal participation, the squads competed in a one-year realignment, with only three divisions, D-I, D-II, and Co-ed. After the Chieftains just fell short to the Northmen in their bid to capture the D-II championship, “the kids used that as motivation going into this year, rose to the task, and completed their mission.”

“And this year, we’ve had the most teams competing in the state that we’ve seen in six-plus years,” added White. “We got to go back to the four divisions, plus Co-ed.”

Seventeen squads took part in the state competition, and while West Warwick, which won the Co-ed Division championship, compiled the most points, the Chieftains finished in second place, with D-II champion North Providence rounding out the top three schools.

Placing second “was an accomplishment all on its own,” said White. “This was always a dream – a long shot I always thought. But to beat every all-girl team, plus the other co-ed teams beside West Warwick? Runner-up in the state feels like first place. West Warwick has a dream team, and to be near the top with them, sharing the cheerleading throne, is a highlight in my coaching career.”

As for the rest of the season, “it was one to remember,” added White. “The obstacles this team overcame all season long and the camaraderie they had at the end (of it) was one for the books. They pushed to be better everyday, they had strong choreography, and they had an amazing skill level.”

The Chieftains will graduate four seniors who White labeled as “amazing” and “four major assets to our lucky 13,” Ava Polseno, Allison Berger, Sara Sepe, and Justice Gouin, “and this senior class is the class I started with when I moved over to Ponaganset High,” said White. “They were ready to tackle the challenge of bringing a championship to Ponaganset, making their mark on Rhode Island cheer, and creating new traditions as a Chieftain cheerleader.”

“We have big shoes to fill next year, but we also have a big junior class that’s ready to fight for the title,” White added. “This isn’t the last you’ll hear of us!”

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