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Sports Person of the Week
Lynch Proves a True Leader for East Haven’s Cheer Team
Senior Ashley Lynch became a role model for the East Haven cheerleading squad during her four-year tenure with the program. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Lynch)
While competitive dancing and working toward being East Haven’s valedictorian has taken up a lot of her schedule, Ashley Lynch has always made time for cheerleading. During her four years as a member of the Yellowjackets’ cheerleading squad, Ashley always made sure that she found the time to support her teammates no matter the circumstance.
Ashley is a senior who has been both a backspot and a tumbler for the East Haven cheer team. Ashley started with cheerleading in the town’s youth program in 2nd grade and then cheered at Joseph Melillo Middle School for three years before joining the Easties. With a background in both dance and gymnastics, the sport of cheerleading immediately clicked for Ashley after her mom signed her up.
“I started off as a dancer and a gymnast. I always loved all of that realm—the acrobatics, the tumbling, the stunting. My mom put me into the [cheerleading] program, and I really enjoyed it,” says Ashley. “With dance and gymnastics, it kind of combined everything that I loved. I loved being able to cheer for my friends who were in other sports.”
Ashley joined the Yellowjackets’ cheer team during her freshman year of high school. She already knew Assistant Coach Krista Anania from her time as a student at The Dance Connection in East Haven. Ashley was excited to join the team and participate in a higher level of cheerleading.
“I always heard from the upperclassmen that they really enjoyed the team. I was really looking forward to coming on,” Ashley says. “I was just really excited to join a much more competitive level and see what the high school is all about.”
Ashley was tasked with being both a backspot and a tumbler for the Easties. As a backspot, Ashley knew that the role required her to have trust among her teammates. By being the base of the stunt, Ashley’s responsibility was to ensure that everyone was in sync and doing their job properly.
In terms of tumbling, Ashley’s experience in dance helped her pick up those skills pretty quickly. Ashley has been competing with The Dance Connection since 2nd grade and is still a member of that program to this day. Ashley says that “flying through the air” and performing stunts was her dream from a young age.
“When I was a little girl, I would watch a lot of YouTube videos and TV shows with these girls just flying through the air. That’s what I would do when I was little,” says Ashley. “I would watch those shows and try and mimic that. Coming into a cheerleading squad, I was able to actually learn the proper techniques. I was able to execute them and basically live out those dreams.”
Due to her commitment to dance, Ashley was never a member of East Haven’s competitive cheer team. However, she was still a big part of the program and did everything she could to attend every event and be there for her teammates as much as possible. Head Coach Michelle Maru remembers a circumstance where the Yellowjackets had a meet and Ashley had to leave for her dance competition about an hour later. Ashley attended the cheer meet for as long as she could to show her teammates that she was still with them.
Even though she wasn’t a member of the competition team, Ashley still loved cheering on her fellow Easties from the sidelines during their games. One of Ashley’s fondest memories was rooting on the girls’ basketball squad when it won the Class M state title in 2018.
“It has been amazing. One of my favorite memories is going to Mohegan Sun when the girls’ basketball team won their championship. Feeling the energy in the room and going to perform at halftime and embracing the crowd’s emotion was amazing,” Ashley says. “You get to see how much pride the town of East Haven has and how we all feel collectively.”
As Ashley has been cheering and dancing, she’s also been excelling academically and was recently named East Haven’s valedictorian for the Class of 2021. Coach Maru has always admired Ashley’s dedication to success and says that both she and Coach Anania feel proud to have worked with her. Maru adds that, over the course of the past four years, Ashley became a leader who everyone on the Yellowjackets admires.
“As a freshman, Ashley came in very quiet, going with the flow. As she grew, she became more powerful. Your eye is always drawn to her. She really became a leader,” says Maru. “The girls saw how responsible she was with showing up at everything and keeping good grades. She isn’t the type to tell you what to do. You look up to her because of what she does.”
Ashley plans on majoring in mechanical engineering and computer science in college. She was recently accepted to Cornell University, but is waiting on more decisions from colleges before she makes her choice. Ashley also plans to continue her competitive dance career at the collegiate level.
As a cheerleader, Ashley has been able to do all of the things that she dreamed of as a youngster. However, even more so then learning flips and stunts, Ashley’s experience with the Yellowjackets allowed her to meet a great group of friends and fulfill the goals that she set out to accomplish in high school.
“It’s meant so much to see. I’ve met so many lifelong friends. The opportunities I’ve gained from it have been so unbelievably amazing,” Ashley says. “I’m so thankful for my coaches for helping me achieve all that I wanted, allowing me to pursue dance and giving me everything I could have ever wanted out of high school cheerleading.”