Southold’s varsity cheerleading team is gearing up to “Bring It On” at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship in Florida next month.

Seniors Dylan Reilly and Lindsy Taggart are captains of the squad, which includes students from Southold and Greenport high schools. Dylan said that it was a “big moment” when they learned during last fall’s regional competition they’d been selected to move on to the nationals.

“We did everything we could, and we put in all our work to make sure we hit on that mat,” Dylan said. “When we heard we were picked to go, it was a big sigh of relief — then we were just so excited to put more work in to be able to hit at nationals.”

The small but mighty team of 12 athletes is making district history: This is the first time it has qualified for the prestigious and rigorous competition, which will take place at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 9-12.

In December, the squad launched a shoe drive fundraiser to cover their travel costs and has been working with a group called Funds2Orgs.  Rather than seeking direct financial donations, students work in partnership with Funds2Orgs to collect gently worn, used and new shoes and sneakers. Those donations are then collected by Funds2Orgs and redistributed to small business owners in developing countries to sell for profit to help them making a living wage. The squad also earns funds based on the total weight of the collected shoes. The drive is ongoing and will continue through Jan. 31.

Club adviser Kate Panetta said choosing Funds2Orgs as the squad’s partner was a “no brainer.”

“We were looking for fundraisers that would not only benefit our team, but that would benefit something greater,” she said. “There are so many people and places that could benefit from those shoes. So, it was really a win-win for everybody.”

The squad is preparing very hard for the competition according to their coach Lauren Berry.

“They put in a lot of work here at practice, they go to tumbling [and] we have early morning practices before school starts. So, they work really hard.”

Ms. Berry is very proud of what the team has achieved so far, noting that the cheer program itself “really started picking up only about two years ago.”

“It’s pretty noteworthy of them to be starting only in the winter season and be able to compete against teams in our division and in Suffolk County that are nationally ranked already and have been for many years,” Ms. Berry said. “So, for us to have a newer program and to be able to put out the scores that we’re doing is pretty incredible.”

Southold High School principal Terence Rusch said the district is “incredibly proud of our varsity cheerleading team!”

“These young ladies work tirelessly year-round and compete against some of the top talent on Long Island,” he said. “Qualifying for nationals is an amazing, well-deserved accomplishment.”

According to Lindsy, the squad has collected about 450 pairs of shoes to date and hopes to keep building that number through the rest of January. 

Shoe donations will be accepted through Jan. 31 at drop-off boxes:


Mullen Motors

Southold Elementary and High School

Southold Fish Market

Southold Pharmacy

Southold Town Hall


Greenport High School

Peconic Landing


Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital


Southold Police Department


North Fork Cheer gym (22355-13 Middle Road)


Cassandra Mari Salon

Wendy’s Deli


Facing the Future Orthodontics

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