The Riverhead High School varsity cheerleading team has qualified for the national competition taking place in Orlando Florida Feb. 11-13.

Riverhead High School varsity cheerleaders have qualified for this year’s national competition in Orlando, Florida.

But they’ll need the community’s help to get them there.

By placing second in the Universal Cheerleaders Association’s regional competition this month, the team qualified for the national competition in February. But since the school district doesn’t fund the trip, the team won’t be able to attend the competition without raising money the money themselves.

The trip is estimated to cost $30,000 to $35,000, according to a GoFundMe page created by the Riverhead Cheer Booster Club, a nonprofit organization created by cheer parents. They have  raised more than $2,300 so far, although their target goal, listed at $20,000, is still a long way off.

“The kids are funding it all themselves, trying to do some fundraisers,” said varsity cheer Coach Stephanie Piraino. “It’s just been really hard with COVID to get out there and do fundraisers like we usually do. Usually, we have spaghetti dinners and large scale events where we’re out in the community… but this year it’s been very difficult.”

The Riverhead cheerleaders were unable to participate in last year’s competitions — which were held virtually — due to the failed school district budget, Piraino said. But that has invigorated the group, she said. In addition to the second place regional finish, the cheer squad has also taken top three finishes at two Section XI competitions this school year.

“This team is a little extra special, because they kind of are coming into this as the underdog,” Piraino said. “Having had that year off and not being able to work their skills the way that they would have wanted to, they’ve come in and it’s almost like they haven’t skipped a beat.” 

“They have amazing attitudes, they work really hard together. They’re honestly just a pleasure to coach. I’ve never had kids where the entire team is so intrinsically motivated to do well,” she said.

The national competition will take place from Feb. 11-13, and the deadline for the team to pay for the trip is Jan. 10. 

“The kids are working hard trying to get out there and get donations. But it’s been crazy, especially with the holiday and everybody’s been hit hard,” she said.

You can contribute to funding the cheerleaders’ trip to nationals at their GoFundMe page.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]