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Article Published February 15, 2018
Toni Takes on New Roles to Help Indians’ Cheerleading Perform at its Peak
Chris Piccirillo, Sports Editor

Josephine Toni cares deeply about helping the North Haven cheerleading team succeed. This season, the senior captain showed how much she cares by making a selfless move in which she accepted new responsibilities for the good of her squad.

Josephine started cheerleading when she was in 6th grade and quickly became a flyer for the team at North Haven Middle School. Josephine loved the thrill of getting thrown in the air and caught by her teammates, and she continued in her flyer’s role upon joining the squad at the high school. As a junior last year, Josephine helped North Haven win the SCC Championship in the Co-ed Division for the first time in program history.

This year, North Haven is back to competing in the All-Girl Division, and the team recently turned in a top-notch performance while placing second at the SCC Championship. When Head Coach Kathleen Crisafi was piecing together this season’s routine, she wanted Josephine to expand her horizons beyond exclusively being a flyer. Crisafi felt that Josephine would best benefit the team if she took on the tasks of being a base, which is the position that catches the flyers; as well as frontspot, which is the position that supports the bases; in addition to remaining a flyer in certain situations.

While it’s pretty rare for a cheerleader to take on such drastically different roles as a senior, Josephine didn’t hesitate for a second when Coach Crisafi told her the game-plan for the campaign.

“There were a lot of new things we wanted to try and, in order to do those new things, we needed to change some things, and I was willing to do that because I knew it would benefit the team,” Josephine says. “For the better of the team, I was able to switch spots and was willing to be used wherever I was needed to be, so everything in the routine can work nicely. Everybody on the team plays a valuable role.”

Josephine had to quickly grasp a different set of skills in order to smoothly transition into her expanded role. It’s certainly been a challenge, but Josephine says she’s learned a lot from both her coaches, as well her teammates who are familiar with the base and frontspot positions. At the end of the day, Josephine likes that she’s contributing to the Indians’ routine in a variety of ways this winter.

“It’s going pretty well. The coaches are very helpful, and girls that have been in those positions give me tips on how to do that stuff. I’m getting used to it,” says Josephine. “It’s difficult at times and it gets tiring, but it also makes me happy that I’m being used in different areas of the mat, because it makes me feel like I’m a part of every aspect of the routine.”

Coach Crisafi appreciates Josephine’s willingness to do whatever is best for the Indians, calling her “the ultimate team player.” However, Crisafi notes that Josephine isn’t just out there on the mat to simply fill a position. She also describes Josephine as “the ultimate performer” who uses her personality to sell the routine to the judges, while encouraging her teammates to do the same.

“Josephine is the kind of kid that people gravitate to when they watch her perform. Whatever job she does, she does it in a way that invites people to watch her and with a smile on her face. As much as cheerleading is athletic, it is a performance sport, so matter how well you do, if you don’t look like you’re having fun, you are not going to score well,” Crisafi says. “Josephine is the one who encourages her team on the mat consistently. Even in a performance, you will hear her encourage her teammates, and she’s almost like another coach on the floor.”

Josephine says it was “one of the best feelings ever” when North Haven claimed the SCC co-ed crown last season, and she felt equally pleased with her team’s performance in the All-Girl Division at this year’s SCC Championship. The Indians finished in second place out of 14 teams by posting a score of 86.6—just a little more than a point behind Shelton, which scored an 87.8 to take first. Josephine was glad to help her team step up on the big stage and deliver its best routine of the year so far.

“We definitely improved immensely. We went up by about 17 points from our previous competition,” says Josephine, who also plays lacrosse at North Haven, where she is a member of the Art Honor Society. “We just really focused on improving every aspect of our routine. We wanted to get our voices up, because we got a low voice score at our previous competition. We wanted to make sure we improved that aspect, and we really did. We just work so hard at practice and went into our routine looking to fix every little thing we could. It was a great performance.”

Josephine and company will be looking to put together another show-stopping performance when they compete at the Class L State Championship on Friday, March 2. When it comes to both their abilities and their attitude, Josephine feels confident that the 2018 edition of the Indians features all the necessary components to bring a state title to North Haven.

“The drive of everyone on this year’s team is crazy. We all feed off everyone’s energy all the time, and we all have the same drive to win states, which is our goal in the end. We always want to win every year and, this year, it’s evident that we want to win as bad as we do,” Josephine says. “We have everything we need. We just have to do it. I can’t wait to see what the next three weeks of competitions will bring and how much we’ll improve.”