Grit, Passion Pays Off For Greenwich High Cheerleaders
By Paul Silverfarb
According to head coach Erin Montague, the Greenwich High School cheerleading team is back and Cardinal Pride couldn’t be higher. And it’s certainly difficult to challenge Montague’s statement.
Competing at a high level and being one of the fan favorites everywhere they go, the Lady Cardinals capped off a memorable season by competing at the New England Regionals.
“The goal was to make it and get there,” Montague said. “We didn’t have any expectations once we were there. We knew that a lot of teams from around the region were very talented. I am so proud of this team and so happy with how far we have come together as a program.”
On March 16, Big Red trekked up to Worcester State University for competition in the New England Interscholastic Spirit Championships and finished the meet third overall in the Co-Ed division, netting a score of 195.5.
West Warwick High School took home the gold with a score of 202.0 and Concord High School placed second overall with a score of 201.7.
“To be honest, we didn’t put our best performance out there at Regionals,” Montague said. “We were still good. But what Greenwich High School has that is unparalleled is its heart and spirit every time we take the mat. Other teams can’t mimic what it is that they show in genuine emotion. So that won over a lot of judges. We do a lot of elite skills and match the scoresheet of all those really talented teams. It wasn’t our best showing, but it was obviously recognized and appreciated.”
And Greenwich wasn’t even sure how they would finish due to so many stellar teams in their division. During the award ceremony, the top five teams from each division are called and the top three are recognized with a plaque. Salem was called for fifth place and then they called Plainville for fourth place.
At States back on March 3, Plainville beat Greenwich by 10 points, a huge margin when it comes to cheerleading. So Montague was thinking that her team probably finished sixth or even seventh overall. And out of 12 teams in the division, Montague would have been quite pleased with that finish.
But, much to Montague, and the rest of Greenwich’s surprise, they were called third. However no one was really 100% sure.
“They pronounced our name wrong, so it took everybody like 10 seconds to catch on,” Montague said. “They said the name and we were like ‘Oh, good for them.’ Then we realized that it was us and we were screaming. The excitement on their faces and in the stands with their parents for a third-place finish was amazing. Some people might think that it was a little over the top for third place, but we were just so happy and so excited. They felt validated. All the work they put in during practices and all the effort they put in to competitions around the state paid off. Sometimes you feel like the same teams win every week. And that’s okay because people work so hard every single day. But it felt great. It was well-deserved.”
Greenwich’s road to Regionals nearly never happened. During the state tournament, the Lady Cardinals had a meet to remember. They were one of only two teams that were given zero deductions during their routine and Montague couldn’t have been prouder of her team’s show-stopping performance.
While the crowd was fired up from Greenwich’s showing, they picked up a surprising fourth place in the State Co-Ed division with a score of 175.40. Plainville took the top spot with a score of 185.80. Fairfield Ludlowe placed second (182.80) and Daniel Hand just edged out Greenwich for third with a score of 177.
With the top three teams in each division given the opportunity to compete at the New England Regionals in Massachusetts, Greenwich was on the outside looking in. And both the athletes and the coaching staff couldn’t have been more disappointed.
“It was a flawless performance and I think the girls were heartbroken over it,” Montague said. “We weren’t included in going to Regionals.”
Montague took to her email and wrote a letter to her team, reflecting on the season and emphasizing how proud she was of them. She also took that email and posted it on Facebook, so parents, fans and alumni could follow along.
But that’s when a simple email changed everything. Literally less than an hour after Montague sent her thoughts about the season, she received an email from the director of the state competition inviting Greenwich to attend the New England Regionals. The day after the State championships, Daniel Hand notified the state that they were unable to represent Connecticut at the New England Regionals.
Because if one of the top three teams are unable to attend Regionals, the State’s cheerleading board calls up the fourth-place team to see if they can replace one of the top three. If not, they move to the fifth-place team and go from there.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Montague said. “I communicated with the captains and told them that I got this email saying that we were going to New Englands. They were stunned and so excited. It was our goal all season to go to Regionals. We were so determined to make that happen. Greenwich hasn’t been invited to Regionals since I was a senior in high school.”
With the trip booked and last-minute arrangements made, Montague and the GHS captains were ready to travel to Worcester State University for competition in the New England Regionals. But first it was time to tell the team that they were off to Regionals.
“We had a meeting and the captains rolled in a suitcase with a big sign that said that we were going to Regionals,” Montague said. “The girls freaked out. They couldn’t believe it. All the parents jumped on board, we booked the trip and we were good to go.”
For Montague, she couldn’t have been more thrilled for her team this competition season.
“They work so hard every single day,” Montague said. “We practice five to six times a week and spend their entire season simultaneously cheering other team’s on and at community fundraisers and they really are proud of this community. They care so much about Greenwich High School winning in athletic events in general that it was great to see them excited for their own work and hard effort. I am so happy for them and the seniors.”
And it’s easy to see that the passion, determination, fire and grit have been the cornerstones of Big Red throughout the competition season.
“We talk about those words every day,” Montague said. “Without struggle you can’t build grit. You can’t earn that. It’s a real intense emotion and drive. I think about their grit and their passion every single day to get better. The day before we left for Regionals, I had kids trying new elite skills that I would never put in their routine the night before. But they were just so hungry to get better and improve as a program. I couldn’t be prouder of that mentality, whether we won or not.”