Sports Person of the Week
Caramanica Paves Impressive Path as Two-Year Cheer Captain
Deep River resident Kelsey Caramanica has served as a captain of the Mercy cheerleading team for the past two seasons, earning All-SCC honors in each campaign. This year, Kelsey also garnered All-State accolades as one of the top-20 cheerleaders in the Class L ranks. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Caramanica)
Kelsey Caramanica is what coaches call a complete package. Not only is Kelsey a talented athlete, she’s also a consummate leader for the cheerleading team at Mercy High School in Middletown.
Kelsey, a Deep River resident, has served as a captain for Mercy’s cheerleading team the past two years. The senior made the All-Southern Connecticut Conference Team during each of those seasons, and was also named to the All-State Class L Team as one of the top-20 cheerleaders in the class this winter.
In addition to cheering for Mercy, Kelsey participates in All-Star Cheerleading with the East Celebrity Elite team, Fame. Kelsey will compete with Fame at the National Cheer Association All-Star Nationals in Dallas, Texas from Friday, March 1 through Sunday, March 3.
Kelsey feels proud to have led Mercy’s cheerleading team as a captain during her junior and senior seasons. Kelsey says she owes a lot to the captains who preceded her for teaching her how to be a leader.
“I’m humbly honored to be captain for two seasons. Not many people in the state get a chance to be captain for one year, let alone two,” Kelsey says. “My leadership abilities began with my past friends, who were great leaders for me. They showed me how to be the best leader I could be.”
The captain’s hat comes with plenty of responsibilities, and many of them were laid out for Kelsey when she donned it. However, Kelsey believes there is much more to being a captain than simply checking off a list of duties.
“I think being a leader comes from the heart. You have to have a passion for your sport. If you have a captain who doesn’t have that passion, you have a miserable captain,” says Kelsey. “A captain pushes everyone to put their best effort forward. You make sure all the people around you are bonding and everyone is having a good time. At the end of the day, that’s what sports are for—having fun doing what you love.”
As far as her individual awards, Kelsey is happy to have some hardware that’s a direct reflection of her effort. Still, Kelsey knows that she never could have obtained those accolades if it wasn’t for the chemistry that she shares with her fellow Mercy cheerleaders.
“Getting All-SCC is a great honor. That’s for a live performance. I wouldn’t have received that if we messed up as a team. If one of us didn’t hit our spot or we flubbed a stunt, that probably would never have happened,” Kelsey says. “I’m also grateful to have won All-State this year. This year, I especially wanted the opportunity to show what I could do.”
The cheerleading season is a long one. During the fall, teams perform routines at football games. When the winter comes, the competition season kicks into high gear.
“In the fall season, we create different dance routines; pretty much a new one every week. They are for fun to get the crowd going,” says Kelsey. “Competition, it’s usually the same routine all season, so we can practice and make it perfect.”
Since Mercy is an all-girls’ school, there is no football team to cheer for. Instead, Kelsey and her teammates pair up with the football team at Xavier High School—an all-boys’ school just down the road—under the lights on Friday nights. Kelsey believes there is a strong bond between the athletes on both squads.
“We have two uniforms, because we don’t go to Xavier games with our Mercy uniforms. We do a lot of school events with one another,” Kelsey says. “There’s a special bond between the football team and our cheer team. We always talk to each other before the games, and we give them candy after the games. We’re always there for one another.”
Mercy cheerleading Head Coach Charmaine Lane says that Kelsey features the ideal combination of talent and leadership. She’s impressed with how Kelsey juggles a busy schedule that sees her cheer for two teams. Lane knows the Tigers will have a difficult time filling Kelsey’s shoes next season.
“You don’t get many athletes like Kelsey. She eats, sleeps, and breathes the sport. She competes as an All-Star cheerleader, as well as on the high school team, and manages to do both and stay humble. She mentors the younger girls. She brings a positive energy to the team,” says Lane. “Kelsey’s our strongest base. She’s dependable, and she even saves stunts for us, because she’s so good. Besides her athletic ability, she’s a great student and a great person. She will help out the team no matter what it is you ask her to do. I’m heartbroken to see her leave, but I’m eager to see what she can do in the future.”
Kelsey wants to cheer for a Division I school at the collegiate level. That will come with some pressure since Division I schools require prospective cheerleaders to try out for the team after they’ve been accepted. Kelsey has a handful of schools on her radar, including Alabama, Penn State, Rhode Island, Central Connecticut, St. John’s, and Syracuse.
“For Division I cheer, it’s unlike any other sport. I’ll be trying out at different colleges that I have an acceptance letter to. So, if I make a team, I can opt to go there,” says Kelsey, who is also Mercy’s class treasurer and member of multiple National honor societies. “I think it’s amazing to have the opportunity to try out at this level. To go after it is an amazing experience in itself.”
In the end, Kelsey feels thankful for everything that she’s experienced during her four years as a cheerleader at Mercy. Kelsey expresses great gratitude for the support that she’s received from her family, friends, and coaches along the way.
“I was a gymnast when I came into Mercy, but I was burnt out a bit. My big sister in Mercy’s Big Sister-Little Sister program, Gina Cambareri, was a prominent person on the cheer team. She told me to try I out, but I thought it wasn’t for me. I tried out for the winter team and met Coach Charmaine, who pushed me to be my best,” Kelsey says. “My mom Kristen and my dad Paul put in a lot of time, energy, and late nights into getting me to all my practices. Also, my brother Anthony set the example of how to push myself so hard. He had that passion as a football player, and now he plays safety at Central.”