By Naeisha Rose
The Southside Seahawks cheerleading team, which practices at the Virgil Grissom Middle School in South Ozone Park, beat their peers at the 2017 Big East AYC Regional Competition by winning two of the three meets Nov. 18.
The Seahawks had to dance, cheer and step their way into the regional competition and won first place in both the dance and step categories, which means the team will advance to the National Competition in Florida Dec. 9.
Overseeing a team of 14 6- to 11-year-olds is the Seahawks Step Director Kim Wilson from Rosedale.
“I am overjoyed,” Wilson said. “I can’t believe we did that ——— two first places.”
The team practices eight hours a week for three days, according to Wilson.
Director Wilson has worked with the team for four years and in previous years the team has come in second place in dance and second place in step at the national competition, but with twice the opportunity to perform she hopes they nab the top stop for one or both competitions.
“We’re hoping that this year we will come back with that championship,” Wilson said.
More important than seeing the girls make it to the national competition is seeing them come together as a unit and working hard to achieve a single goal as a team, according to Wilson.
“For them to put [the routines] on the big stage and get it all together, it makes you want to cry,” Wilson said.
Two of the cheerleaders are Danielle Mitchell, 8 and Zalaya Elder, 11.
“It felt good,” said Danielle about her win. “It was amazing, it was fun and we were on television.”
The Rosedale cheerleader’s favorite thing about cheering is combining gymnastics and flips.
When it comes to the national competition, she has mixed emotions.
“I feel terrified and happy together,” Danielle said.
Zalaya, who lives in Cambria Heights, shares Danielle’s love of doing flips and she is also a big fan of doing backhand stands.
When she found out she was going to go to the regional competition, she was nervous, but once they won she was surprised and happy.
“This was my first year on the team,” Zalaya said.
Zalaya is looking forward to the nationals and hopes the Seahawks win again.
“I tell them all the time, you are like sisters now, 14 sisters,” Wilson said. “Sometimes you are going to clash with each other, but when we get out there on the mat, everything else goes to the side and we got to focus on winning.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose