By Tim Lima
---- — BYFIELD — Over the past few years, Erin Dempsey has quietly built one of the best cheerleading programs in the area, and now the team is seeking its first state championship in school history.
“Our seasons are typically successful,” Dempsey said. “We have won the Cape Ann League Championship each winter for four seasons in a row. Last year was the first time we won the North Regional title and we just defended that title last weekend in Chelmsford. Now, we have the State Tournament on Sunday.”
As the points stand currently, Triton is the best Division III cheerleading team in Massachusetts. Led by a strong unit of four seniors who have dedicated up to eight seasons to the team, Dempsey’s program is flourishing.
“I took it over in 2008 and the girls have improved skill-wise year-after-year, so the success isn’t something that they take for granted but something that they work hard for,” Dempsey said. “The youth program has been helped by our success, and this season we had a winter JV team for the first time. The success we have had has drummed up interest in the school and community.”
As high school cheerleading has transformed, so too have the Vikings. Tumbling has grown in importance recently, leading teams to incorporate more flashy and difficult skills to their tournament routines.
“Most people notice the high degree of difficulty that we have in tumbling,” Dempsey said. “That’s something that we have built. I have focused on difficulty a lot this year and focused on their skills and making things harder.”
Triton looks to continue its winning ways at Sunday’s State Tournament at Tantasqua Regional High School at 3 p.m. If the Vikings win, it would be the first time in school history.
“Our goal is definitely to win,” said senior Nicole Indingaro. “But most importantly, we just want to give it everything that we have and put it all on the mat.”
Indingaro is one of four seniors on the team, a strong base of experienced cheerleaders who have been with the program for four years. Also in their final season with Triton is Amanda Colpitts, Colleen Barrett and Ashley O’Neil.
“They have been with me for four years,” Dempsey said. “They have definitely been a huge asset for this program and have set the standard for the younger kids.”
For them, the State Tournament on Sunday is not only an opportunity to set school history but also to extend, perhaps across the country, their high school career doing the sport they love.
“I hope that cheering continues on from there. Winning states would qualify us for New Englands and then Nationals would come after that in Disney World.”
Though Triton has never captured a state title, Dempsey feels strong about the way her team is performing.
“Never in school history have we won a state title, so the goal is to make it happen,” she said. “In the six years that I have coached, this is the best position that we have been in to do that.”
While college cheerleading may be in the future for some, this may be the last competition that they take to the mat together.
“I hope to continue in college depending on what school I go to,” Indingaro said. “High school would have been completely different if not for cheerleading. Everyone on my team has been my family and every day I would look forward to being with them after school.”