After a two-year hiatus, RHAM High School cheerleading is back atop the conference after winning the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC)-East on Feb. 19
It was a triumphant return for the Raptors, who overcame a difficult 24 months.
RHAM cheer last won a division title in 2019. In February of 2020, head coach Danielle Levasseur said the team made “routine errors”, causing them to finish fourth in the conference championships.
When COVID-19 hit America soil in March of 2020, cheerleading was one of the sports most impacted. The team sport, which is indoors and includes close contact with multiple stunts and vocalizations, was extremely limited last season and postseason tournaments were canceled.
This winter competition was back and better than ever, featuring events in the regular season and holding both conference and state tournaments.
RHAM seniors Erin Lapierre, Hannah Mangiafico, Sydney Summerer, Rachel Gaudette, Amanda Simmons, and April Snyder helped groom a new group of gymnasts that was learning on the fly.
Levasseur praised the half dozen seniors for their leadership and resilience, bridging the gap between the grade levels.
“They have been a tremendous help in helping us rebuild over the last couple of years,” Levasseur said. “Other than [our seniors], most of our team is freshmen and sophomores and because of COVID they have not had the same level of opportunities and experience as our seniors do.”
Lapierre, Mangiafico, Summerer were selected All-CCC. Sophomores Paige Cavalieri and Danielle Poudrier also made all-conference.
Heading into the conference championships, Levasseur said the team gained confidence after scheduling a competition ahead of the conference finals to get feedback from judges.
“We were able to use feedback from that to make changes to our routine to get higher scores,” added Levasseur. “The week leading into CCCs they were having some really consistent practices. It was nice to see that we were hitting more frequently and getting much cleaner and their confidence was growing.”
RHAM High School hosted the CCC cheerleading championship this season, giving the Raptors some home cooking for their crowning achievement.
“[The team] was really happy, especially with the year off that we were able to bounce back from that,” Levasseur said of the conference accomplishment.
RHAM cheer has become a standard of excellence and Levasseur has been a major part of that success over the past decade and a half.
The now-coach was a former RHAM cheerleading captain prior to graduating in 2012 and becoming a cheer captain at Merrimack College until her graduation in 2016.
She took over the program in 2017 and joined forces with assistant coach Alicia Goode, who was also a RHAM-graduate and former cheer co-captain with Levasseur in high school.
The alumni-duo have continued to grow the program, while preaching the same positive principles they were taught.
“It kind of fell in my lap and I am so happy that it did because I’ve enjoyed working with them and watching the program continue to grow,” Levasseur said of her return to RHAM.
After winning the conference, the Raptors competed in the state competition held at Floyd Athletic Center in New Haven on March 5, finishing 11th among Class M teams and placing ahead of 10 other teams.
It ended another banner year for the Raptors and the high school careers for the six seniors.
Levasseur said the departing cheerleaders had a profound impact on the young girls, evidenced by the non-seniors giving speeches dedicated to the seniors on the team’s Senior Night.
“It was really great to hear them talk about how much the seniors have inspired them,” said Levasseur. “I am really proud of how the seniors have been able to model for the underclassmen how to act, what they should be doing, how they should prepare for competition, and how to be great teammates.”
Levasseur added that the entire team, both senior and non-seniors, has been flexible, overcoming COVID-related absences, injuries, and lineup changes.
“They have been great at buckling down and getting right to work,” she added. “They have not complained about the things that have happened. They have persevered through to have the best performances that they can and make the most of this season.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin