You may have heard of the Clippercats football team before, but this year a new Portsmouth-Oyster River team was created: cheerleading.
Starting this fall, Oyster River High School (ORHS) was welcomed to join the Portsmouth High School (PHS) cheerleading team, which has been around since 2018. The team cheers at sports games like Clippercats football and PHS boys basketball and competes in New Hampshire Division I cheer competitions. The team was a co-op this fall and was very successful. This winter season has been different for the cheer team since a co-op wasn’t able to happen due to the involved process of getting approved. As of now, there are 6 girls from ORHS on the team, so the coaches are hoping for continued interest from ORHS to move forward with the co-op in coming years.
Sam Freni, one of the coaches of the cheer team, explained the co-op team was created because, “we have a football team which has had a co-op for many years with Oyster River. We were getting girls coming up to us in the stands saying that they really wanted to cheer and that they went to ORHS. We asked around and there was a lot of interest, so we decided to also get a co-op.” A co-op is when two teams join together due to lack of numbers to give schools an opportunity to offer the sport. Freni, alongside coach Whitney Corcoran, has been coaching the PHS team since it was originally formed in 2018.
“There’s a misconception about what it’s actually called. The state technically calls cheerleading ‘spirit,’ and a lot of people hear that and don’t know what it is. It’s competitive cheerleading. We compete as a sport in the state,” shared Corcoran. The team spends half of their season preparing routines for games and half working on routines for the three to four competitions each season. ORHS team members were able to participate in competitions during the fall season but are no longer able to this winter because the co-op didn’t extend to the winter season.
A competition is “doing the best skills that you’ve got and getting scored on them. We do the routine that we’ve worked on for the whole season. The routine is only two and a half minutes long, so we really work the whole entire season for that one moment,” Freni said. These skills consist of jumps, stunting, pyramid, and tumbling, all put together with dance elements. The routine stays the same throughout the season with adjustments made as they go.
The coaches hope to continue the co-op between PHS and ORHS, especially given that “the fall season went fantastic and it was our best season ever,” Corcoran said. It was the best performance season score-wise, which was a great success. The team competes in Division I for New Hampshire which is the most competitive division for cheer in all of New England.
There is not a co-op this season because “of the involved process to get a co-op approved. We wanted to start out with just fall cheer to gauge interest and work out the details,” Corcoran said. Many of the ORHS members are still participating in any way they can for the winter season. “We still offer the opportunity for Oyster River girls who want to cheer to practice with us. They condition with us, they do our team lifts, and they can cheer at basketball games if they want to stay in shape for the upcoming fall,” she said.
Gabi Selig (‘25), a sophomore at ORHS, is a member of the Clippercats cheer team and was disappointed about not being able to compete. However, she is viewing this winter as a valuable way for the team to work on skills together. She also shared, “the rest of the winter season will be supporting the girls who go to PHS with all of their competitions.” Selig has been participating how Corcoran mentioned above by doing team lifts, conditioning, and cheering with the rest of the team at games.
The team is made up of all skill levels, and anyone is welcomed and encouraged to join. There are some girls from All-Star teams, some with gymnastic experience, and some with no prior experience. Selig joined the team with no previous experience but has found that “it’s two schools combining as one, so it’s new friends, new opportunities, and it’s a good environment. I can take my mind off things, get good exercise, and learn a new skill.”
So far, information about the team has been spread through word of mouth. Freni and Corcoran are hoping to get more people to join from ORHS. “We’re definitely always seeking new interest. I think it’s been harder than maybe we anticipated to spread the word at Oyster River,” they said.
Selig has really enjoyed her time on the cheer team and said, “if people are interested in joining cheer, they should. It’s a really great opportunity.” If you’re ever at a PHS basketball game or Clippercats football game next fall, be sure to look out for the Clippercats cheer team, especially in the upcoming years as the team grows.
– Libby Davidson
Image courtesy of Whitney Corcoran