Holy Cross High School cheerleading team in Queens set to compete at national competition

ByRaegan Medgie WABC logo
Friday, February 9, 2024
Queens cheerleading team set to compete at national competition
Raegan Medgie has the story.

FLUSHING, Queens (WABC) -- A local cheerleading team in Queens is heading out of state to compete against some of the top cheer squads across the country.

Meet the cheerleaders of Holy Cross High School, a former all-boys school up until 2018, which is around the same time when Melissa Diaz moved up from Florida.

"My son plays football for the school, and when I went to the football game I said, 'Where are the cheerleaders?' They said there are none," Diaz recalls. "I said, 'Oh, well we have to change that.'"

A former cheerleader herself, Diaz now coaches the school's cheerleading team, building the program from the base up.

The team recently qualified to compete at the national level in Florida and will go up against the top 19 other cheer squads nationwide.

"It's cool to see that we've achieved that goal," said Gabby Ballenger, a sophomore cheerleader.

Holy Cross' cheerleading squad is only two years old, and for many of its members, it will be the first time ever cheering. Their story is more about grit and determination.

"I threw these kids into intense conditioning through the summer and in the fall, and I built them back up to what is acceptable for cheer, and they took it and ran with it," Diaz said.

For freshman cheerleader Sanyah Lorcy, she says it feels amazing to be heading to nationals in her first year of cheering. Other like junior Olivia Sowunmi say cheer is more than just a sport.

"All the discipline, all the hard work and motivation, help and support from everybody really just makes me a better person," Sowunmi said.

Senior Vanessa Caniano says being part of cheer helped her come out of her shell.

"I was a shy kid and doing cheer, especially at Cross, really just brought out my confidence," Caniano said.

Students like junior Shannon Chmio think of cheer as being in the moment.

"When you get on that mat, you have one shot, and that proves everything. All your hours of practicing -- everything," Chmio said.

The cheerleaders will embrace this opportunity of a lifetime as they try to bring home the win for Holy Cross.

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