Port Chester Show Down fundraising mega-event prelude to cheerleading Send Off to Nationals
February 12, 2024 at 5:48 p.m.
The Mod Squad Port Chester Middle School cheerleaders took first place in their division at the Port Chester Show Down in the Port Chester High School gym this past Saturday (2/3). Back row, from left: Madison McConnell, Maika Davila, Emelin Diaz, Kayde Affon, Alexa Melgar, Nayeli Penaloza. Middle row, from left: Ariana Casarella, Genesis Hernandez, Ariana O’Meara, Anaeli Leveron, Abigail Tobias, Marley Saunders, Summer Darling, Alexis Patafio, Sophia Alonzi, Juliet Petriello, Annalise Gouedy. Front row, from left: Geraldine Valdovinos, Melani Lopez, Mellany Choque, Allison Montano, Emma Santos, Zoe Sosa, Kaylan Ceballos, Aylee Flores, Jazlyn Contereas, Devora Garcia, Daniella Trinidad.
(Courtesy photo of Courtesy of Leah Yusi)
The joint was jumping, a lot of joints actually, physically, emotionally, vociferously and for many shining moments over the course of seven hours, the Port Chester High School gym became the center of Westchester's sports universe as well as the most cheerful place around.
It was Saturday (2/3), a day that was billed as the Port Chester Show Down.
And what an upbeat Show Down it was.
Cheers by the numbers
More than 30 schools, clubs and recreation departments sent more than 400 student athletes of varying ages to compete in 39 events so the gym rocked interiorly if not foundationally while becoming a veritable Cheerio-Rama, a stationary carousel of cartwheels and tumbles, pyramid lifts and high kicks, rah rahs and hoorahs and more, because each eager team was excitedly yet disciplinedly trying to show how good they could be.
And because each team brought its own music to cheer, strut and dance to, the gym became a cavernous theater filled with an evolving series of Rockettes exploding in synchronized motion across a stage that extended across the basketball court from mid-court to the far baseline.
Deejay rocks gym
And in the intervals where the teams weren't strutting their stuff from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a deejay was blasting away with rock music that had more than the collective feet a tapping as the fan base that lined both sides of the court got into the swing of things.
It was truly a sight to behold with toddlers who could barely walk grooving to the music and trying to tumble while emulating their older counterparts, that is, if you could call the exhibition mini-Rams and Ramettes and the mod squad Middle Schoolers and high schoolers older.
What made it all super special, a kind of Westchester Cheerleading Super Bowl, was the fact that the event was designed as a fundraiser to help send the nationally-ranked Port Chester cheerleading varsity and junior varsity teams to the cheerleading National Championships at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 9-12.
Both teams had already won regional and local championships, giving Port Chester something to cheer about during an otherwise dismal winter sports season when every other Ram and Lady Ram team had a losing record.
Customary hosting rule
But as is customary when a school is hosting an invitational like the Show Down, the home team does not compete, so the Port Chester varsity and JV could only stage exhibitions as they were not eligible to compete for a title. So they staged an exhibition, as did the Port Chester Mini-Rams.
And they wowed the crowd.
But the Port Chester Middle School could compete, did compete and won.
As did so many other competitors, the best of the best from schools ranging from Tuckahoe to Harrison, from All-Star Teams like the Brooklyn Diamonds Athletic Youth to the Delaware Valley Middle School, from The Mary Louis Academy to Saint Catherine's Academy, and from Ardsley to Scarsdale High School, and a lot of schools in between stretching from Yonkers to Westlake, Eastchester and Scarsdale to Suffern, Yonkers and New Rochelle.
So the high school parking lot was filled with more Maseratis and Mercedes in a day than it usually sees in a year, maybe decades.
Which was all to the good because it takes $2,100 to send each member of the blue collar Port Chester varsity and JV teams to the Nationals, so various fundraisers—from raffles to car washes—to reduce the cost for the families of local participating student-athletes.
And the Show Down was the biggest.
Price of admission
Admission cost $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, kids were free. And while the total amount raised wasn't available as of press time, it was a lot because the gym also included various pop-up boutiques selling everything from pink Show Down jerseys ($25) to cotton candy ($4), designer workout clothes to souffles to raffle baskets.
And at various times, the gym was packed with fans root, root, rooting for their home cheerleading teams with a pre-printed schedule noting the warmup and performance times for the large and small schools and their events, from game day cheers to traditional, more choreographed routines. Ditto the Mod Squads and club and recreation department teams.
Each showed what they could do while performing on six different elongated padded mats that extended from roughly mid-court to the far baseline.
At the head of the mats set up was a long table at which sat six certified cheerleading judges. Behind the table were four rows of folding chairs for ancillary team members and VIPs. And in front of the table was a space that allowed seated non-competing members of the various teams to cheer and shout along with their performing teammates. And those non-participants and the hometown fans cheered as their teams came out of the locker room in staggered waves as the various events unfolded.
The supporting cast
It all made for quite a show. And it took a village, a community, school support, a dedicated cheerleading Booster Club and various sponsors to make it happen. It also took lots of planning from people like Athletic Director James Ryan, head cheerleading coach John Gonzalez and cheerleading coaches ranging from newcomer Leah Yusi, a former Lady Rams cheerleader, to Candace Calabrese, a special education instructor in the Port Chester School District for more than a quarter of a century which includes 15 years of cheerleading experience. It also includes championship-caliber Port Chester student athletes including 21 varsity cheerleaders (including three males), 15 on the JV and 28 on the Mod Squad.
Some key athletes include the varsity's three males: seniors Adrian Osorio, Christian Flores and junior Johnny Borzoni (a three-sport athlete in football, baseball and ice hockey) as well as senior captains Allison Recinos, Allegra Burke and junior Mayelin Gonzalez along with junior Fiona Lovallo and Madison Mollica, an eighth-grader. Mod Squad top achievers include the winners of the Show Down event: Madison McConnell, Maika Davila, Emelin Diaz, Kayde Affon, Alexa Melgar, Nayeli Penaloza, Ariana Casarella, Genesis Hernandez, Ariana O’Meara, Anaeli Leveron, Abigail Tobias, Marley Saunders, Summer Darling, Alexis Patafio, Sophia Alonzi, Juliet Petriello and Annalise Gouedy. Also Geraldine Valdovinos, Melani Lopez, Mellany Choque, Allison Montano, Emma Santos, Zoe Sosa, Kaylan Ceballos, Aylee Flores, Jazlyn Contreras, Devora Garcia and Daniella Trinidad.
That stellar performance argues well for Port Chester's cheerleading future.
The Show Down was a warmup for the Nationals Send Off event Monday (2/5) at 8 p.m. at the high school when all the Port Chester teams would showcase their routines as a kind of dress rehearsal before the varsity and JV take off for Disney World in the upcoming UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships. They will be competing in the Coed Non-Tumbling Game Day and Traditional Divisions, events they have won in previous regional and local competitions. They will be staying at the All-Star Resort. And they will be shooting for the stars while looking to move up in their 10th-place national ranking.