By Nick Curcuru
GLOUCESTER — When the Gloucester High School co-ed Cheerleading team left home for Orlando, Fla. and the Cheerleaders of America Ultimate Nationals, they left as a pretty accomplished team.
The Fishermen had already won the Northeastern Conference and finished second at the Massachusetts Regionals, as well as the State and New England Championships.
When the team returned home yesterday, they came back as National Champions. The Fishermen defeated Miami Killian High School by just .15 points last Saturday to win their third national title under head coach Eric Bichao. Ironically, Miami Killian defeated Gloucester in the COA Ultimate Nationals last season,
"The team was happy to exact some revenge after they (Miami Killian) beat us last year," Bichao said.
Gloucester captain Rebecca Cousins was happy that the team was able to get first place after a recent string of second place finishes.
"It's been an amazing experience," Cousins said. "We have a young team and we lack experience, but we have really come together as a team. I'm so proud of everybody."
The Fishermen's win did not come without a little controversy.
Gloucester was originally announced as the second-place winner, but it was determined that they mistakenly received a penalty.
"I always look the score sheet over to be sure there are no mistakes," Bichao said. "And I noticed that we were given a penalty, but we were not told that we had a penalty. So I went to the committee to check it out and I really thought that the penalty would be valid and they just forgot to tell us."
The team was assessed a 10-point penalty because one of the judges believed that Gloucester's Filippo Zappa was wearing jewelry on his wrist. However, it was actually a silver wrist band that he was given at the beginning of the competition. The cheerleaders all received gold wrist bands, but Zappa's kept breaking, so he was given a silver one.
"Fortunately for us, the lady who gave him his wrist band was the same person who I showed the score sheet to," Bichao said. "She signed off on the mistake right away and we won."
Bichao, still had to tell his team.
When he finally broke the news the team erupted into pandemonium. The team was elated to win after what had been a long day, Gloucester had competed at 9 a.m., and didn't find out that they won until 4 p.m.
"We couldn't believe it at first and we just sat there with our jaws down to the floor," Cousins said. "But after it sunk in we were all so excited."
The Fishermen won the competition even when they didn't perform their best. The team was given nine deductions on their first performance and had to dig themselves out of an eight-point deficit. Their second-day performance was better and was ultimately enough to win them the prize.
"I didn't think it would be enough to win," Bichao said of Gloucester's second-day performance. "We weren't as clean as we usually are and we had a lot of deductions.
Bichao believes a combination of nerves and fatigue from a long season was behind the performance.
"They were really nervous," Bichao said. "I tried to assure them that it was not as big as State's or New England's with the caliber of teams and the crowd, but they were still nervous. Plus we have had a tough stretch of four competitions in the last four weeks, I could tell that we were a little spent."
All in all, Gloucester was happy to come out with the victory.
"It may not have went perfectly but I am definitely proud of them," Bichao said. "We had a successful year and the team worked really hard, they deserved it."
Gloucester Co-Ed Cheerleaders
Head Coach: Eric Bichao
Cheerleaders: Amanda Goveny, Amanda Rumble, Analise Sanfilippo, Caitlyn Shatford, Emma Biondo, Erica Quince, Filippo Zappa, Graziella Ciulla, Kaitlyn Ciulla, Kara Papa, Kayla Erwin, Lauren Sutherland, Lillian McCarthy, Moria Souza, Nicole Lane, Rebecca Cousins, Rebecca Haskins, Stephanie Marques, Stephanie Wright.