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Two Mass. cheerleading teams celebrate post-season success

Banner Staff
Two Mass. cheerleading teams celebrate post-season success
(top) Brookline Jamaica Plain Patriots Level 1 varsity cheerleaders and coaches. PHOTO: Brookline Jamaica Plain Patriots. (Bottom) Lady Raiders Cheer Squad: Junior coach Janelle Burtalus, Carlissa Griffith (missing from photo), Makayla Gill, Ryla Gill, Glory Panell, Kathy Panell, Amilia Mejia, Kanya Taylor, Janiya Galloway. PHOTO: John Wilcox

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This year, the Lady Raiders Cheer Squad had one goal on their minds heading into their second straight Pop Warner Championship in Orlando, Florida: Finish the job!

Last year, the Raiders were runners-up, and coach Renée Murray told the team, “I just need your best two minutes and 30 seconds, that’s it.”

The coach said she shapes the team by knowing her athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. She told them to “treat it like any other practice … with flashing lights.”

Her squad defeated the Bennetts Creek Warriors in the Bantam Level (13–16-year-olds) finals to take home the trophy. They competed in both the sideline cheerleading and the “show cheer” contests, including the gymnastic style jumps and acrobatic moves.

“Three groups of the Raider team made it down to the championships by winning the New England tournament,” said Arkey Taylor, Boston Raiders vice president.

Because of this win in Orlando, the Lady Raiders Bantam eight-person squad has been invited to compete in the global cheerleading tournament in New Jersey in February.

Murray said she pushed the girls to go to the national tournament so they “can see what’s outside the perimeter of Boston. Many inner-city kids don’t get out of the city. People live differently; people act differently. The competition is a plus, but [the out-of-town] experience is really important.”

She said the cheer team provides a “‘safe space’ for the athletes even if it’s only two hours a day.”

The Raiders have had a core of athletes for four years, and some girls have received athletic scholarships for college due to their hard work, including a spot at UMass-Dartmouth.

Taylor points out that the Raiders are the oldest team in Boston and will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2024.

The Brookline-Jamaica Plain Patriots cheerleading team also competed in Orlando for a spot on the winner’s podium. They came in first in the New England Northeastern Massachusetts Region Varsity level tournament (12–15-year-olds) to earn their chance at glory.

Their third-place finish in the national tournament was exceptional, given that over 500 national teams compete for a spot in the Sunshine State.

The Patriots had come close before, but this was “mind-blowing,” said executive board member Sydney Fuller-Jones.

It’s the first time they have reached the nationals in the club’s history. “Many of the coaches wear various hats to get the team ready, including being the transportation, the chef and the chaperone, but it all worked out this year. The struggle is real, but we embrace that,” Jones said.

Brookline-Jamaica Plain Patriots cheerleading, cheer, Lady Raiders Cheer Squad, Pop Warner Championship, Sports