Ridgefield cheerleaders place first in consecutive competitions

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — One of the town’s youth cheerleading teams is coming down from a winning streak after practicing through unprecedented circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ridgefield Tigers recently nabbed two first-place titles at the local and state level. The squad comprises third, fourth and fifth grade students and falls under the Ridgefield Youth Football and Cheer program.

Head coach Kate Campbell has been coaching for nearly 20 years and cheered competitively for just as long. She was a Division 1 cheerleader at The University of Delaware and took a team to nationals as a coach before starting her family in Ridgefield.

Campbell has three daughters and was pregnant with her youngest, Emily, when she returned to coaching in 2019. Her oldest daughter, Claire, cheers for the Ridgefield Tigers, and her other daughter, Paige, will join the eight and under program next year.

The team experienced an influx of members in 2020 despite the pandemic. Campbell is also supported by two assistant coaches, Catalina Bazan and Gillian Sheerin, who also have daughters on the team.

“A lot of other towns … had a harder time with their roster,” Campbell said. “We were the only local team that was large, which is 18 (members) or more.”

The young cheerers had to remain masked while practicing outdoors and only worked on fundamentals to maintain social distancing, she explained.

“We had to modify the sport to be safe … but they loved finally being challenged,” Campbell added.

The Tigers still experienced pandemic-related challenges as they readied for this year’s round of competitions. Some members were forced to quarantine just days before they were slated to hit the mat, Campbell said.

While the hiccup could’ve impacted the team’s momentum, “They really rose to the occasion and adapted on the fly,” Campbell said.

“It’s a pretty intense routine, and it has a cognitive element,” she added. “They not only memorize music, stunts, tumbling, jumps, formation and dance — they’re smiling through all that and making it look easy.”

The Tigers got their first taste of gold during American Youth Cheer’s local competition at Joel Barlow High School in Redding on Oct. 16. Lighting struck twice on Nov. 6 when the team claimed first place again, this time at states. The competition was held at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.

The Tigers were eyeing a three-peat at AYC’s regional competition, which was hosted at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on Nov. 20. The team came up with a sixth place finish, becoming one of the top 10 youth cheer teams in New England.

“They have no idea what it means,” Campbell said. “They have made such strides in one year — imagine what they can do in two or three years.”

Campbell emphasized that the glory of back to back first-place wins doesn’t come without committing to the grind.

“I’ve seen them all develop their confidence, problem-solving techniques, communication (skills) and work ethic,” she said. “Working hard can really get you somewhere, and it’s so much more enjoyable when you can do it with a team.”

Campbell’s goal is to bring the Tigers to nationals next year, and she hopes to do that with some new team members. For more information about the program or to register, visit www.ridgefieldyouthfootball.org or email vpcheer.ryfc.tigers@gmail.com.