Torello Displays Great Dedication to Cheerleading
As a freshman, Antonia Torello attended all of the practices for the East Haven cheerleading competition team, even though she wasn’t a member of the squad. Antonia got that opportunity in her sophomore year and was determined to grow in the sport, leading her on the path to become a captain for the Yellowjackets as a senior.
Antonia started cheerleading in 7th grade at Joseph Melillo Middle School. Prior to that, she danced for 10 years at The Dance Connection in East Haven. Once she started competing, Antonia realized that cheerleading was the sport for her.
“I competed in 7th grade, and that’s when I realized I loved it. The atmosphere was totally different,” says Antonia. “Dance competitions weren’t as exciting. The crowd was so into it. It felt so great being a part of a team for once. That’s when I realized I really wanted to cheerlead.”
In 8th grade, Antonia decided to stop dancing in order to pursue cheerleading full-time. Antonia found that her experience in dance was a huge help in terms of her getting acclimated to cheerleading.
“It was such a great thing to dance. It helped me so much,” she says. “The techniques are very similar. You do a lot of the same things with jumps, technique, and dancing,
“Even personality wise, I took a lot from dance to cheer” Antonia says. “Dance gave me a lot of confidence to go out and do everything. It helped a lot.”
Antonia joined the Yellowjackets as a freshman and, while she wasn’t on the competition team, she was still a regular at its practices. Antonia wanted to prove she was dedicated to cheerleading and that she belonged on the competition squad.
In her freshman season, Antonia won East Haven’s Sportsmanship Award.
“I wanted to support everyone. I wanted to show my coaches that I cared. I wanted to be there for the upcoming years and show them that they can trust me to show up to things, even if I’m not involved,” says Antonia. “I’ve never really missed practice. I don’t miss anything.
“It started there,” she adds. “I wanted to prove to them I could do it.”
Prior to her sophomore year, Antonia attended a summer camp, where she started to work more on being a backspot. When she returned for her sophomore season, Antonia tried out for the competition team and received the good news that she had made it.
“I was so excited. I felt like I finally got my chance to prove to them that I can do what they’re asking for. I really worked hard, and it paid off,” Antonia says. “I couldn’t tumble my first year, and I was really working toward that. I finally got it. I showed a lot of growth. I was really excited to be a part of it.”
When she was competing for East Haven, Antonia no longer felt like the underdog. Now, she was a part of the team. Antonia says that she had some nerves when she first started competing, but she learned how to drown out those jitters and do what was needed to help the Easties succeed.
Now a senior captain, Antonia is a backspot who also does tumbling and is a part of the Yellowjackets’ dance routine. While she has a lot of responsibilities, the most important thing for Antonia is leading by example for her team.
“It’s really hard. I had to do a lot more this year than when I competed in sophomore year. Then, I was just a back. Now it’s so much more, especially as a senior,” says Antonia. “There’s a lot more weight on your shoulders to be a leader for everyone else and not be nervous. It’s hard to balance all three, but it feels good to be involved.”
Antonia feels that her biggest growth from her freshman to senior year is her mentality. As a freshman, Antonia put a lot of pressure on herself to succeed, but now she feels more relaxed and is able to perform better as a result.
Antonia’s advice for East Haven’s younger cheerleaders is to have fun in the sport and take it easy. Antonia conveys this message as she leads her team with fellow senior captains Kaitlyn Kapinos and Vanessa Sigular.
“I was really honored to be named captain,” Antonia says. “It was a big deal for me. I felt like I was a really positive role model to everybody. I wanted everyone to be able to trust me. I was so excited to finally be able to step into that role.”
Head Coach Michelle Maru has been Antonia’s growth both on and off the cheerleading mat. Maru says that Antonia makes a great captain with her strong leadership and fun-loving personality.
“Antonia has proven to be very deserving of her role of captain. She is a great leader and role model to all the athletes on our team,” says Maru. “As a captain, Antonia is very determined to push herself and others to be the best they can be, while maintaining a positive attitude at all times. She also brings so much fun and laughter throughout the year. We love having her on the team.”
After started with cheerleading in 7th grade, Antonia’s passion for the sport has grown with each passing year. As she competes alongside her East Haven teammates, Antonia feels proud that she’s doing so while wearing the blue and gold.
“It shows a lot of pride. It has given me so many opportunities. If I didn’t do it, I would totally regret it,” Antonia says. “I’ve made so many great connections with everyone and my coaches. It was such a great opportunity. It means so much to me. I’m going to miss it a lot next year. It’s an important part of my life. It means a lot to me to be a part of this team.”