Zachary Winn

Equinox Staff


The Keene State College dance team ended its season on a high note, winning the New England Cheerleaders Association dance competition in Connecticut.

“It was just a perfect feeling going into award ceremonies we just knew we had it in the bag,” junior captain Lisa Garamella said.

The team overcame many obstacles to achieve the victory, including dancing with fewer women than they expected at the start of the season.

“It’s a smaller team than usual,” Garamella explained.  “There were a lot of challenges this season. We had one of our girls decide she wanted to transfer.”

She continued, “Then we had a girl studying abroad, and we also had a girl who is really prone to concussions and she got a concussion during the season so once she came back this semester we really had to take it easy with her and not re-aggravate anything.”

Junior teammate Gabby Pacheco brought up another challenge the team faced.

“We don’t have a coach or choreographer, so everything that is done is done by students,” Pacecho said.  “We’re only considered a ‘club’ so we don’t get the same funding as a ‘team.’  We just can’t afford to have those… But when a challenge is placed in front of us, no one will pass it up.”

That mind-set has helped the squad over-achieve this year.

Garamella described the team’s modest expectations entering the year.

“Coming into the season we really wanted to just spread our name around the campus and community. Just be more active and do more volunteering and fundraising, just getting our name out there more,” Garamella said.  “And we just wanted to go to a lot of competitions and spread our name around with the other teams and just have a successful season overall.”

Count Pacecho as another member of the team who said she has been impressed with what the women have done.

“Our expectations going in were just to take this year as time to work hard and grow as a team so next year we’re able to bring more to nationals,” Pacecho said.  “I feel like we have met all our goals and every member of the team is working for improvement every day,” Pacecho continued.  “I see a lot of potential in everyone and we’re all willing to work for it.”

The team put that hard work to good use as it outperformed other teams that often had more women than them.

But hard work wasn’t the only asset that set this team apart.  The chemistry also stands out.  You might recognize them as the people who were encouraging you to pie them in the face as part of a fundraising event on Keene Pumpkin Festival.  That was just one of many activities this team has done together.

As they talk of plans to hike Mount Monadnock in the spring, they give the impression that this is a group of friends more than a group randomly placed together based on dancing skills.

That type of camaraderie goes a long way in a sport where teams must move in perfect synchronization during entire routines.

“It feels good to come home with first place, especially knowing we did it all on our own.  It feels like we’ve accomplished a lot,” Pacecho said.

Pacecho said she attributes the success to her captains.

“I give a lot of credit to Lisa and Kellee [junior captain Kellee McNeill]. They’ve pulled this team to be what it is today. They work really hard and their dedication to this team is unexplainable.”

Even after all their work, the team didn’t know what to expect going into the competition.  “We didn’t know who we were going up against so it was all kind of up in the air,” Garamella said.

Garamella said it wasn’t even the winning that meant the most to her.

“It was, right when we got off of the floor from performing so many people came up to us telling us how great we were,” Garamella said.

Garamella said the group had several supporters at the competition as well.

“And there was a lot of high schoolers there; Keene High School was there actually and they were cheering for us the whole time and they were saying how amazing we were and how great our performance was.  It really made all our work and preparation for the competition worth it.”


Zachary Winn can be contacted at


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