CSI Cheer colelcts after its second place finish at this year's championship

The College of Staten Island Cheerleading squad put on a dynamite performance, dazzling the home crowd with its spirit and stunting, but fell short of defending its championship, placing second among the five competitive programs at this year’s exposition at CSI’s Sports & Recreation Center this evening. Brooklyn College won its seventh title in the last eight years, scoring 255 points to CSI’s 241.5. John Jay College earned the bronze in the event, finishing with 205.5 points followed by Medgar Evers College and Kingsborough Community College. In individual showcases, CSI won first place in the Jumping competition, and took second place in both Stunting and Tumbling.

“We had an amazing warm-up and that fueled us,” said third-year CSI Head Coach Justine Elyse Green, whose team features five student-athletes who were introduced to cheerleading for the very first time. “Coming into the gym with so many fans added to our excitement level. We were ready when we hit that mat, and we let our excitement fuel us.”

After exhibition routines from both Moore Catholic High School from Staten Island and Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School, the competitive segment began. CSI was the fourth team to compete, followed only by Brooklyn’s routine. The defending champs blended a variety of finesse moves, combining a series of stunts to start their routine and finishing with a polished choreographed number that sent the home crowd to its feet. CSI did falter a bit on its sets and dismounts, most notably its final pyramid, but the team regrouped nicely and ended its routine with a sharp finish.

“Our opening was great. We came out with a lot of energy, and even with a little bobble at the start, we rebounded nicely,” Green explained of the number. “We faltered on our final pyramid and sometimes the slightest of errors can do that, but to be one hundred percent honest, I am very proud of how we performed. Between our new performers, and the injuries we have had, to get to this point and perform the way we did was very inspiring.”

The point scoring was tight and deservedly so. Up next was Brooklyn, and the Bulldogs, sporting plenty of numbers with championship pedigree, came out of the gates flying, launching its back row into the air and landing flawlessly to set the tone for their performance. The Bulldogs’ difficulty level was high for many of their moves, but with a steady base they were able to stick their performance, and when it came time for their dance number, the team exercised a great deal of movement to spark their side of the stands into a frenzy.

While the judges went to their scorecards, individual events then took place in Stunting, Jumping, and Tumbling. CSI’s team of Gianna Abbrusseze, Ashley Isaacs, Naomi Grey, Adriana Medina and Nicole Medina took the mat on behalf of the Dolphins, and scored a total of 80 points, good for second place overall. The Bulldogs took top honors with 90 points. York College, which did not compete in team competition, earned the bronze with their effort, good for 72 points.

Up next was Jumping, which saw CSI take its only first-place finish of the evening for both Isaacs and Yenitza Mendez. The duo earned 17.1 points, getting past Brooklyn’s duo of Ashley Mendez and Stephanie Marquez by less than a point (16.2). Medgar Evers College placed third in the field just a hair behind, at 16 points.

“It was a nice surprise because normally jumping is judged individually rather than as a team,” Green said. “We have great jumpers on our team and the win was great for Ashley (Isaacs) who came in third place last year in this competition.”

CSI’s Abbrusseze then scored a third place finish in the Tumbling routine, finishing with 15.5 points and in a tie with John Jay’s Nicolas Foy. Teresa Mercer of York took second place with 16 points, while Brooklyn’s Cristina Careri took gold with 17 points.

Finally, in a fitting end to the evening, the scores were read for the competitive team competition, and when Brooklyn’s name was called as champs, the arena thundered with applause. For the Bulldogs, the win overturned the memory of last season, when the team came in third place, its lowest finish ever in CUNYAC competition.

“I am really proud of how we performed tonight,” said BC head coach Tonika Simmons. “We have been working very hard all year and the way we came together to achieve this goal is a great feeling. We only have one opportunity to do this, so to win tonight, I couldn’t be prouder.”

For the Dolphins, the evening was a great intro for many of the team’s first-year players. Because the CUNYAC only has one competitive event per season, the anxiety level is always high, and according to their coach, the team performed well.

“It takes a while to build a powerhouse and that’s what we are trying to do going forward,” Green said. “Tonight was simply a chance for us to build on that goal. It gives many of our first year athletes a taste of what is to come, and for our veterans, it gives them a chance to continue to get their bodies prepared for the rigors ahead.”

CSI Cheerleading will continue to work hard, even into the spring, when they will appear at College showcases, welcome events, and marquee athletic contests.