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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 9, 2006

Guilderland Cheerleading

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — The screams of joy were so loud that no one could hear their name being called.

All the Guilderland cheerleading team needed to hear to set them off was the name of the second-place finisher being announced — and they knew the national championship was theirs.

The Guilderland team had just won the large co-ed level-five division, and were named national cheerleading champions in the Milk House arena at The Walt Disney World Resort’s Wild World of Sports.

The Dutch beat out Enterprise High School of Alabama to win the championship.

"It was the best feeling," said Adam Forte, a senior captain of the squad. "The feeling was so overwhelming. A shock went through my body when I heard Enterprise called. I wanted it so bad. I worked hard and the other seniors tried to push it so everybody wanted the same thing."

"It’s ridiculously amazing," said Jessie Layton, another senior captain. "I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was jumping and screaming. It was so exciting."

"We sat in a circle on the mat, waiting to hear," Guilderland Coach Patty Palmer said. "And as the announcer was saying ‘Second place, large co-ed level five,’ all I kept thinking was, ‘I don’t want to hear the ‘G’’ and then, when I heard Enterprise from Alabama, after that it was total chaos. I didn’t even hear them say, ‘National champions, Guilderland.’ I’ll have to watch the video."

It was also an accomplishment for the state.

"We were the first New York team ever to win," said Palmer. "It’s mostly southern or mid-western teams that usually win. I had other coaches come up to me and tell me it was nice to see a New York team win. There were other teams from New York there, mostly from the Rochester and Long Island regions. Poughkeepsie had a couple of schools there."

The competition was split this year into the different levels, which Palmer said made it hard.

"They split it into level three, four, and five with five being the hardest," the coach said. "They were all teams that had beaten us. We felt the pressure going there. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure what everyone was bringing back."

The levels were split by competitiveness and past accomplishments. It was the fourth trip to Disney for Guilderland; they had a couple of second-place finishes before.

The Guilderland team arrived in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and stayed until Monday. When the team members returned to the Albany International Airport, they were greeted by parents and supporters.

"We had a great homecoming at the airport," Palmer said. "We had a good number of people witness it. We had our cheering section. At the competition, it’s hard to capture the crowd because nobody knows anyone. You can feel the judges breathing down your neck. To capture the crowd is always a great triumph."

Capturing the crowd also helps ease the tension the teams feel while they’re in the spotlight.

"It definitely is an intense atmosphere," Palmer said. "It’s dark except for the floor where the team is standing and the little desk lamps where the judges are sitting.

"I felt nervous," Palmer added. "My knees were knocking when I went to play the music. I definitely felt the pressure."

A championship team

The team had four captains and 10 seniors in all.

Forte and Layton were joined as captains by Nancy DeLeon and Matt Rimmer.

Jess Falvo, Erica Roth, Austin Elliot, Chris Wolfe, Tonya Loveday, and J.T. Terry were the other seniors on the team.

"We have 10 seniors and last year we lost 12," Palmer said. "Jessie’s been with me for three years and Adam and Matt have been on the varsity for two years."

The team has always had success recruiting boys; this year there were nine.

"It is the most I’ve ever had," Palmer said. "There were 12 at tryouts; it was a big surprise. I knew I had three coming out — two returners and one I knew was going to come out in the summer."

The guys on the team this year are all juniors — R.J. Wolfe, Chase Wolfe, D.J. Johnson, and Nick Zanotta most of the other girls on the team are juniors — Sarah Denniston, Sara Merrill, Katie Moran, Katie Irish, Amanda Heacock, Randi Gemmetti, Rachel Crowder, Amy Nagy, Noel Quagleri. Jacquline Howland is the only sophomore.

Palmer and the captains said the seniors pushed the underclassmen to excel as they got ready to go to Florida.

"We had only five people returning and some people up from junior varsity," Layton said.

"You never know about some of the guys," Forte said. "But they had a lot of fun and got more relaxed."

"After the first competition," Layton added, "all of it just clicked. Especially with the guys."

Forte said that he feels blasé until the first competition.

"All the games, the guys don’t like it," Forte said. "The games are boring and, when you get to a competiton I’m like ‘This is why I do it.’ As a returner, it’s like, ‘Oh, here we go,’ until you get to that first competition. You get that competitiveness back."

The team was also working on new routines and adding new dynamics to their routine.

"We did the best we could to prepare," Palmer said. "We stepped up our tumbling. We did not ever have that before. That help push us over the edge."

Palmer knew she had to add tumbling if the Dutch were to compete with the other teams nationally.

"We needed to do more stunting and tumbling," Palmer said. "They do it in the South and it is something we struggled with."

"We did some advanced tumbling," Forte said. "And that really brought up our routine and put us on the next level."

"The North is known more for stunting," Layton said. "At local competitions, that is all the difference. Tumbling is more important in the South."

Palmer was not sure what to expect as the team was heading to Disney.

"Ever year, the kids keep asking how we’ll do," Palmer said. "I can’t predict the competition and I didn’t want to give them false hope. And, when they called fourth place and then third place, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was thinking second is amazing."

"I talked with Patty about how to keep everybody calm when the spotlight hit," Forte said. "It’s definitely a little intimidating when the spotlight hits."

"Our strategy is to have more fun," Layton said. "It shows that we like our routine. And that helps the judges like it a little more."

Finding funds

The team had to raise all the money for the trip on its own and did not get any money from the Guilderland School District.

Each member of the team had to raise $850 .

"The school helped us by letting us hold an extra competition," Palmer said. "We made some money there and we had our youth clinic and that was a good one for us. We had a good turnout. Last year, it snowed."

The team members also went to businesses in the community to ask for donations.

"We fund-raised throughout the season," Palmer said. "Everybody reached their goal."

The team had to raise more money than in previous years because it had to stay an extra day.

The Dutch returned from Florida and had to compete in the Suburban Council meet and were named the Grand Champions.

"The pressure was on," Palmer said. "Every year, we win our group but we haven’t been named grand champions the last couple of years. We expected it this year after our great win in Florida."

The season ends this weekend at the Northeast Regionals.

"It is always hard for the season to end," Palmer said.

But the win in Florida will go a long way in the coach’s and cheerleaders’ memories. After a couple of weeks, they all continue to wear their championship jackets.

"This definitely gives us a little more respect," Forte said.

"This shows that we are capable of doing great things," Layton said. "It’s a source of pride for us and the school."

It will be a long time before the shine of winning the championship wears off.

"I’ve never smiled so big in my life," Layton said. "For three years, I’ve done everything I could to try and win this. I cannot smile any wider."

"The Guilderland team means a lot to me," said Palmer, who also coaches the team at the University at Albany. "To me, the program is great every year. I would not give them up for anything. To capture the title is a dream come true."

Voorheesville bowling

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville Blackbird bowling team finished in the middle of the pack this season with a 6-11-1 record in the Colonial Council.

"I thought we would be a bit better than that," said Voorheesville Coach Jim Duncan. "The guys averages were down a little bit. Mike Tesch only averaged 200 and Charles Lansburg had a 194 or 195. We had eight seniors and a couple of guys that averaged 190 last year were at only 180 this year."

The eight seniors on the team this winter were Kevin Bub, Robert Flynn, Edward Labshere, Lansburg, Justin Lupien, Allan Proskin, William Shutter, Tesch, and Chris Thomas.

"They struggled this year," Duncan said. "They had good days and they had bad days."

Rebecca Duncan, the coach’s daughter, had a more consistent average during the season. She bowled a 185 for most of the season.

Duncan, a ninth-grader, was joined on the team by classmate Kevin Tesch, and juniors Samuel Musella and Andrew Dowen.

"We’ll struggle to have a team next year," Coach Duncan said. "We have two juniors and Rebecca and Kevin. We’ll be looking for people; we’ll be down a bit.

"Schools like Lansingburgh and Cohoes — inner-city schools — they’re still into it," Duncan said. "Out here in the country, the kids are tougher to get"Next year will be interesting. I’m coaching football and I’ll tell those kids that I need bowlers."

Duncan was hoping the seniors would go out with a better season.

"Honestly, I was expecting more out of them with all those seniors back," he said. "We lost Dan Healy to the basketball team. I thought we could do a little better than we did. At sectionals, we were eighth out of 24 teams, but 600 pins behind [winner] Mechanicville.

"In the league, we had two great matches with Mechanicville," Duncan added. "They shot an all-time school record against us up there. They had four kids that shot a total of 700-plus pins that day. We had one in the 700’s and a bunch in the mid-600’s. You can’t complain with that."

Duncan said that he won’t miss just losing the seniors but he’ll miss who they are and what they accomplished.

"They’ll be tough to lose," Duncan said. "Justin, Allan, and Charles have been together since the eighth or ninth grades. They won sectionals, finished second, fourth, and eighth. I can’t ask for more from those kids.

"Last year, we had the lead [at sectionals] all day," Duncan added, "until Canajoharie got hot and went crazy. They are really great kids. I worked with them in football and bowling all this time. It is tough to lose these kind of kids."

Voorheesville boys' volleyball wins sectionals

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — As freshmen, they wanted to represent their school in the sport they love.

When they were freshmen, their school had dropped volleyball from the sports landscape. That did not stop Austin, Ian, and Adrian Michalski.

The Michalski triplets — with the help of Coach Tom Kurkjian — recruited a bunch of classmates and, in a brief period of time, turned volleyball into the best team in the school.

The Blackbirds won their second consecutive Section II Class C/D championship with a three-set win over Chatham at Hudson High School on Friday. Voorheesville won the first set, 25-15, squeaked out a 25-23, win in the second, and pounded away in the third, 25-6.

Last year, the Blackbirds beat Coxsackie-Athens in three sets and then won the regional tournament by beating Living Word Academy of the Section III (Syracuse area). The Birds will again play for a regional title. This year, they will travel to Westmoreland High School in Section III to challenge that section’s champion.

"This one was a little more exciting," said Ian Michalski, after Friday’s game. "They played us hard."

"There definitely was pressure to defend our title," Austin Michalski added.

"Every team is out to get us," Adrian Michalski said.

The Blackbirds thwarted all challengers during the season as they not only went unbeaten during league play but they also did not lose a game, winning each match in three sets.

"It was a little iffy if we would win in three games," said Kurkjian, who is the coach of the team. "We went 12-0 this year and we didn’t lose a single game. I don’t know if that has been done before."

From close to crushed

Chatham posed a challenge in the second game as they battled back from a 14-8 deficit and eventually tied the set.

The Panthers tied the game, 19-19, after a serve by Will Moon was returned into the net.

The team traded points but Voorheesville held a 23-21 lead.

A kill by Adam Rugen brought Chatham within one point and got the serve back. But the ensuing serve went into the net and Voorheesville was one point away from winning the game.

The Voorheesville serve went out of bounds and the score was 24-23. On the Chatham serve, the Birds played the ball well and Adrian Michalski put an end to the game with a hard-hit spike for the kill.

The Blackbirds celebrated while the Chatham players looked dejected as they left the court to prepare for the final set.

The Birds dominated the final game from the outset and used nine consecutive service points by Mason Junco to close out the match.

Kevin Goss scored the championship point for the Blackbirds with a kill; the Birds celebrated on their side of the net.

"We knew we were in control of the match," Adrian Michalski said.

"We didn’t adjust to their tipping," Ian Michalski said of Chatham’s style of offense. "They were giving us a game. It was tight and crazy."

"We made some errors," Austin Michalski added. "But, for the most part, we played pretty clean."

The close call in the second game fired up the Blackbirds to win the match in the next game.

"It made us want to win the next game so bad," Ian Michalski said.

"Always together"

Ten seniors celebrated their second consecutive sectional championship.

"We couldn’t do this without the rest of the guys," Austin Michalski said. "They are a big part of the team."

Tom Cavanaugh was the Blackbirds’ third big hitter besides Austin and Adrian Michalski. Matt Belgiovine was a good at the libero position, a back-row defensive player.

John McNally, Junco, and Josh O’Brien made some major contributions to the team as did Goss and Austin Saddlemire.

Also on the team is junior Garrett Simpson, sophomore Michael Thamsen, freshman Nathan Bub, and eighth-grader Garrett Wineinger.

The seniors are mostly a core group that formed as freshmen to resurrect the program that had been cut by the school.

Some of the seniors were recruited a couple of years later.

"Tom [Cavanaugh] has played for two years," Kurkjian said.

"I love this group," Ian Michalski said. "We’ve been together since our freshmen year. We got some kids interested and they said ‘Why not"’ They all turned out to be good players."

"All the guys in this grade are close," Adrian Michalski added. "We are always together and we always practice hard."

"We came into a season a few years ago and it was only the three Michalskis and a couple of other kids," Kurkjian said. "We played a half-season. We weren’t that great but they all came back the next year. Everybody that played returned and decided they wanted to play to win. We won the Central Hudson Valley League that year but lost to Maple Hill.

"This team has had a good run," Kurkjian said. "We were one game away from beating Maple Hill when these guys were ninth- or 10th-graders."

Smart kids

But it’s the Michalskis who have been the anchor of the team for the past four years. They were the force that formed the team and they used their talents to lead the Birds to two sectional titles and the first regional title for a team from Section II.

Their talents will also take them to the collegiate level. Though they haven’t decided on which schools they will attend, they said that they will go to different schools and they will play volleyball, whether at the Divison I, II, or III level.

"We want to play in college," Adrian Michalski said. "A lot of Division III teams play against Division I teams. We’ll either play with Division I players or against them."

"These are interesting kids," Kurkjian said of his players. "They are very smart kids. The Michalskis have a 96 average and Matt Belgiovine got a 1,600 on his SAT’s, he said referring to a perfect score. They do a lot of stuff. A lot of them are in band and two of the three Michalskis sing in chorus. A lot of the kids are also in the Model U.N."

Kurkjian coached volleyball for 19 years before taking a leave from the sport. He coaches boys’ and girls’ tennis at Voorheesville and decided, after discussing it with his wife, to help form a new volleyball team at the school.

"It is a nice feeling to coach guys," he said, "and watch them do well."

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