Spirit of the Greyhounds: Cheerleaders shine

The NHS cheerleading squad was the only one in Connecticut to send members to the Disney Christmas Parade last month.
The NHS cheerleading squad was the only one in Connecticut to send members to the Disney Christmas Parade last month.

The life of a student-athlete is a daily grind not for the faint of heart. Three-hour practices, weekly competitions—it’s not uncommon to see players, still in uniform,  sitting on the bleachers with their books open, trying to catch up on homework or studying for the big test.

The lessons learned about dedication, teamwork, commitment and hard work pay off with attributes that will lead these young people to productive lives. Not that the straight-A student doesn’t possess these same skills, but there is something to be said about the work ethic of these young people who put their schools and teams first.

Not to be lost among the shuffle is the dedication, commitment and sheer athleticism of the spirit of the school: the cheerleaders.

The Greyhounds cheerleading squad, led by head coach Jennifer Miller and assistant coach Carol Walker, has put Naugatuck on the map recently. Four members of the team traveled to Orlando last month to participate in the Disney Christmas Parade.

Senior captain Jamie Iannotti, along with sophomores Krista Verrastro, Michelle Scinto and Victoria Hendricks, spent Dec. 3-7 with their parents at Disney World.

The Naugatuck cheerleading team attended a summer camp at Pomperaug High School, and those four cheerleaders were nominated to join the NCAA all-America cheerleading squad. They were the only cheerleaders representing Connecticut on a team of more than 300 from across the country.

“It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Iannotti said. “This is my senior year, and we were the only four cheerleaders selected from Connecticut. So it was truly an amazing feeling to make this team.”

The four cheerleaders also got another thrill on the trip when they performed with the Jonas Brothers during the parade.

“It was a great honor to be representing Connecticut and our school so far away from home,” Verrastro said. “It was a little nerve-racking at first, with all the people down there, but it was a great experience.”

“It was a great experience,” Scinto added. “We met a lot of girls from different states and came away with some new friends.”

The overall experience not only made the girls better cheerleaders but also created a sense of camaraderie that has brought the whole team together.

“To be able to put on the uniform and go out there on national TV was very exciting,” Hendricks said. “It certainly made me appreciate cheerleading a lot more and proved that hard work does pay off.”

The cheerleading camp was the first time Miller brought the team together for an outside event. The goal was to try to get the team to bond and in the process, four of its members got to experience a trip of a lifetime.

“This was the first time they attended camp together,” said Miller. “We didn’t go last year, but we certainly are making plans to do it again next year. I’m so proud of these girls and the opportunity they had to come back and share it with the rest of the team. It really brought us all close together as a team.”

The Naugatuck cheerleading squad is a relatively young team led by six seniors: Iannotti, Alyssa Cristillo, Heather Pollack and Katlynn Houie, along with Liz Hufnagel and Stephanie Nevins.       

Juniors Cassie Boisvert, Chynna Ellis, Jamal Lovett, Jamie Pagan and Joey Philson represent experience on the squad, as it gets ready for the competition season next month.

The bulk of the team is a group of 10 sophomores, led by Hendricks, Scinto and Verrastro. Andrea Roman, Andrea Walker, Jamie Baroczky, Jenna Muller, Jenna Simmons, Josef Arreaga and Samantha Medrek represent the future of the Greyhounds program.

Adding to the youthful depth of the team are freshmen Nicole Wright, Lindsay Allison, Chelsea Maza and Amy Debreceni.

“We’re pretty excited about getting the competition portion of our season underway,” Miller said. “The team is working hard on its routines, and I really think the experience in Florida will help us to grow as a team.”