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01/19/2022 11:00 PM

Kapinos Becomes a Leader for the Easties

Senior Kaitlyn Kapinos was selected as one of the captains for this year’s East Haven cheerleading team, reprising a role that she previously held with her middle school squad. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Kapinos

After dancing for 10 years, Kaitlyn Kapinos decided to switch sports and start cheerleading at Joseph Melillo Middle School. Kaitlyn quickly found her new passion and, after earning the role of captain in middle school, Kaitlyn has done so again, having been named one of the Yellowjackets’ captains for her senior year of high school.

Kaitlyn started dancing at The Dance Connection in East Haven when she was two. When she entered 6th grade, Kaitlyn noticed that many of her friends were on the cheer team. Kaitlyn decided that she wanted to give cheerleading a try and took a liking to the sport right away.

“I started off dancing and, when I got to middle school, some of the people I danced with were on the middle school cheerleading team. They got me to try out,” says Kaitlyn. “It immediately clicked for me. It had the aspects that I liked from dance. It led me to stop dancing and continue on with cheering.”

During her 8th-grade season, Kaitlyn was named a captain for her cheerleading team. It was a big moment in Kaitlyn’s career that proved that, while she was still new to the sport, her efforts were paying dividends.

“When I got captain, it was just a huge honor. It showed that all the hard work I put in to get into the sport and really get good at it paid off,” Kaitlyn says. “The transition from dance to cheer was difficult. Dance wasn’t really a team sport. Cheerleading was. Getting captain was huge for me.”

After learning choreography through dance, Kaitlyn found that her transition into cheerleading was going smoothly. However, once she joined the Yellowjackets, Kaitlyn realized how difficult it would be to succeed. During her freshman year, Kaitlyn made the Easties’ competition team and was working with the experienced cheerleaders on the squad.

“High school cheer was a lot more serious. At first, I was a little intimidated. I went from being the oldest on the team to now being the youngest,” says Kaitlyn. “Some of those girls were four years older than me. When competition season rolled around, I was one of the only freshmen on the competition team. It was a big adjustment, as they all had more experience.”

Kaitlyn was a flyer in her freshman season. Then as a sophomore, Kaitlyn moved to backspot, which had been her position in middle school. Kaitlyn says that she feels more comfortable being a backspot and was happy to go back to that spot.

In her sophomore year, Kaitlyn and the Yellowjackets competed at the Class L State Championship, finishing in 10th place with a score of 148.5 points. For Kaitlyn, competing at states for the first time was a moment that she will never forget. Not only was it her final performance with her flyer Ally Bourque, but that season also marked Kaitlyn’s first year as a full-time member of the stunt team.

“That was my first time being in a stunt group. It was a big honor in itself,” Kaitlyn says. “Competing at states was really nerve-wracking at first, but then once all the stunts were hitting, everything was going our way, the crowd was going nuts. It was just crazy.”

Now a senior, Kaitlyn was named one of East Haven’s captains alongside fellow seniors Antonia Torello and Vanessa Sigular. After serving as a captain in 8th grade, Kaitlyn feels honored to reprise that role with the Easties.

“Before the season started, they announced me as captain. That was such a huge honor, that they felt that out of everyone, I deserved that,” says Kaitlyn. “Going from being captain in middle school to captain now, it was really rewarding. I knew what it took to lead a team.”

As a freshman, Kaitlyn didn’t have the confidence that she has now. Kaitlyn says that working with her older teammates helped her grow both mentally and performance wise. As she went through the East Haven cheer program, Kaitlyn felt more comfortable communicating and was always looking to lend a helping hand.

“Freshman year, I was more nervous and shy. Being on the competitive team as a freshman really opened me up,” Kaitlyn says. “All the upperclassmen really took an interest in me. They got me talking. Ever since, I think I’ve come into more of a leadership role on the team. Sophomore year, I worked with the underclassmen. I always try to help.”

After graduation, Kaitlyn is planning on attending college and majoring in biology to pursue a career in the medical field. She also plans on continuing her cheerleading career.

Every time she steps on the floor, Kaitlyn knows that it’s game time. When the music hits, Kaitlyn lets everything go and knows that she needs to perform. As she’s getting ready, Kaitlyn always feels glad that she’s about to perform with her best friends beside her.

“Competing with East Haven has really had a huge impact on my life,” says Kaitlyn. “Through these last four years, I’ve gained friendships and connections with girls that I’m going to take on into my future. Some of these girls I can now call my best friends. I have a huge support system. Now, they cheer me on.”