Keene State College’s cheer squad had a pair of championship cheerleaders on the mat with them in the Spaulding gym last weekend of October 17.
The team hosted sisters Alyssa and Taylor Calixto, two well-decorated accomplished cheerleaders who work with high school and college student-cheerleaders on their technique, routine and confidence. Taylor was a gold medalist with the United States National cheer squad in 2015.
During the two-day clinic, the Owls cheer squad worked eight hours a day on their routine for the upcoming Universal Cheerleading Association National Championship in January.
Taylor noted that during the clinic, the team had made progress in not just the physical aspect of the sport, but the mental components as well. She said this is one of the reasons why she works with young athletes.
“I think that they get a lot of motivation and encouragement and that it’s been done before [and think] ‘I can do it too’,” Taylor said.
Besides her gold medal, Taylor also won three national titles at the UCA Championships with her alma mater, Hofstra University, including one of those UCA Championships with KSC Head Cheer Coach Chris Fecteau as her teammate.
“She’s very much the all-around cheerleader,” Fecteau said.
Fecteau said he has seen a change in the mindset of his athletes since the Calixto sisters arrived on the KSC campus.
“We have absolutely progressed,” Fecteau said, “We’ve seen the actual skills progress, but we’ve seen attitudes, culture and those kinds of things progress as well.”
Fecteau said that seeing that kind of improvement in his athletes is something that makes him enjoy his job so much.
“The biggest moments as a coach to see is when you believe in something before they do, and then seeing them believe in it. And that’s been fantastic to see this weekend, just to start to see those things they didn’t believe in right away come to fruition,” Fecteau said.
Taylor’s sister, Alyssa, who has a number of accolades on her cheerleading resume, including competing in the cheerleading world championships five times and acting as a judge in numerous cheer competitions, said that the Owls are on their way to being where they need to be to become one of the best squads in the country.
“I think they are a great group of girls who are motivated and really working hard to get to that next level and try to be better than the year before,” Alyssa said.
The Owls’ goal, according to Fecteau and his athletes, is to place in the top three at the National Championship in less than three months.
Sophomore cheerleader Alyssa Flattery said she sees that goal as more reachable now. “I can see the bigger picture and I can see the potential…If we can clean everything up and do what we need to do I think we can make top three,” Flattery said.
The Owls will be competing at the UCA National Championship in Orlando, Florida on January 16, where they will both metaphorically and literally try to climb the pyramid to reach their goal.
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