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Local youth 'cheer' for Batavia girl with leukemia

By Daniel Crofts

A "bulldawg" fighting for her life is a powerful opponent; a "bulldawg" with a team behind her is even more powerful.

Emma Harris, age 4, was diagnosed with leukemia on Jan. 17. Local cheerleaders have teamed up with the community to help Emma and her family with a cheer-a-thon dubbed "Team Emma -- We Got This."

During the afternoon cheer-a-thon this Saturday (3 to 6 p.m.), 47 girls ages 4 through 12 will learn stunts, jumps and a dance routine, which they will then perform for the public in the Batavia High School gym at 260 State St. in Batavia.

BHS cheerleaders and dancers from local studios will also perform in addition to the cheer-a-thon participants.

School doors will open at 6 p.m. The gymnasium will open at 6:30 and the performances begin at 7.

It is free and the public is invited. But of course there will be a donation table for anyone who would like to contribute to help the family with medical and travel expenses.

A Chinese auction and 50/50 raffle will be held, featuring a variety of items ranging from Sabres' tickets to food, toys, gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses, purses, framed pictures, cleaning products, etc.

A student in Jackson Primary School's pre-school program, Emma is an avid cheerleading fan and honorary mascot of the Batavia Bulldawgs, a youth football and cheerleading program. Cheer director Sherri Wahr said that while Emma was not old enough to be a cheerleader, she "put so much effort" into showing up at practices and cheering them on that they "put her in a uniform and let her be our mascot."

"She was there longer days than most of the girls that cheered," said Wahr's daughter, Alexis (15), a JV cheerleader and an assistant to her mother with the Bulldawgs.

"She knew all the cheers just as well as the older girls," Wahr said. "And if they did something wrong, she told them."

She also became very close with Wahr's two daughters, Alexis and Lydia (12), even going so far as to name two of her stuffed animals after them.

When they found out about Emma's condition, Wahr and her daughters were understandably affected.

"I got a phone call from Emma's aunt," Wahr said, "and she told me about the diagnosis. My thought initially was, 'What can I do for them?' Then I picked Alexis and Lydia up from their cheerleading practice and told them the bad news. The first thing they said to me was, 'Mom, what are we going to do?' So brainstorming in the car, all three of us came up with the idea of doing a cheer-a-thon."

On the way to visit Emma at the hospital, they bounced different ideas off each other for a team name, a theme, etc. But it wasn't until they arrived at the hospital that the right idea hit them.

"We brought Emma a megaphone for everyone to sign when they came to visit her," Wahr said. "We wrote 'Team Emma' on it. And then we thought, 'That's awesome.' "

Then Emma's mother came in and showed them a headband someone had sent to the family. Written into the headband were the words, "We got this."

Cheer-a-thon participants were able to raise money for Emma by either submitting a $25 participation fee or obtaining sponsors.

Some, according to Wahr, have done both.

"I know there's been a request for another sponsor sheet," she said, "so somebody's out there getting a lot of sponsors."

Prizes will be awarded to the top three cheerleaders who bring in the most donations.

Whether in the form of sponsoring the cheerleaders, donating items for the raffle and auction, or donating equipment for Saturday's event, Batavia businesses have really come through for Emma.

"It's absolutely amazing the outpouring of support that we've had," Wahr said. "I would say almost half of the businesses in town have donated to Emma in some way, shape or form."

For more information, call or text Wahr at 356-0639.

Photo courtesy of Sherri Wahr.

Batavia Cheerleading Youth Camp

By Sherri Bartz


Open to all from ages 4-13


Level 1 – Ages 4-6

Level 2 – Ages 7-9

Level 3 – Ages 10-13

Batavia Cheerleading Boosters Program,

Event Date and Time

BHS alumni cheerleaders wanted for special Oct. 3 fundraising performance

By Billie Owens

The Batavia High School Cheerleaders are having an Alumni Fundraiser to help their program. There will be a special routine for 1-minute 30-seconds choreographed by alumna cheerleading coach Krista Shamp.

The routine will be performed by alumni cheerleaders at half-time at the varsity football game on Oct. 3.

Any alumni who would like to take part is asked to pay $20. For that, the participant will get a T-shirt and "time to have one last shining moment under the lights," according to JV Head Coach Jamie L. Turman, who is an alumna cheerleader of BHS, Class of '09.

She adds that alumni who would like to help boost the program can still pay $20, get a T-shirt, and skip the performance if they don't want to do it or don't have the time to practice.

Practices are held from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at John Kennedy School.

Turman would like more participants to join in the fun.

If interested, contact her at the high school at 343-2480 or e-mail  <>

VA residents get some holiday cheer

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia High School cheerleaders visited the VA Hospital this morning to visit with residents and perform their basketball cheers. One resident told the girls, "this is what he fought for" while thanking them for their visit.

Information and photo submitted by Justine Bonarigo.

Sisters will be rivals Monday when their schools, Batavia and Notre Dame, meet in championship game

By Howard B. Owens

The DellaPenna family is pretty certain this has never happened before in the history of Batavia basketball: Two sisters, on opposite sides of the court, cheering for their respective teams, when Batavia High School and Notre Dame meet Monday in the championship game of the Lions Club Tournament at GCC. Danielle is a senior at Batavia and Gabrielle is a freshman at ND.

Information and photo submitted by Tim Tucker.

'Cheerdawgs' score big at competition in Lyndonville

By Howard B. Owens

Photo and information submitted by Sherri Wahr.

The cheer squad for the Batavia Bulldawgs youth football program did very well Sunday at the Niagrara Orleans Football Association cheer competition in Lyndonville. The beginners took third, minis 2nd and JV placed 2nd for cheer and 1st for routine. The girls also captured the Spirit Cup.  The JV team scored the most points in the division to win Grand Champion, with varsity coming in third in its division.

"I'm so incredibly proud of each and everyone one of them," Cheer Director Sherri Wahr said. "They came out and gave it all they had and it really paid off."

Batavia Cheer squad finishes second at Brockport Spirit Fest

By Howard B. Owens

In their first competition of the year, the Batavia HS varsity cheerleading team took second place at the Brockport Spirit Fest over the weekend. Kayle Corp placed third in the individual competition. The sectional competition is Oct. 26. (Photo and information submitted by Justine Bonarigo.)

Elba Lancers cheer squad debuts new, more sophisticated routine

By Howard B. Owens

The Elba Lancers cheer squad unveiled a new routine during half-time of the Elba/Byron-Bergen vs. Notre Dame game Saturday.

The routine features more acrobatics than I've seen from a high school cheer squad before.

Cheer Coach Kate Engle said her cousin Jackie Borrelli, now a cheer captain at Niagara University who cheered for Northeast Elite, conducted a two-day cheer camp for the Elba team and taught the girls the new routine.

Saturday was the first time they performed it in public.

Rachel Wannike is Elba's captain this year and she's featured in the flyer toss. Tabitha Fuller, a seventh-grader, is featured in a series flips during a pyramid (unfortunately, my camera slipped out of focus during this part of the routine). 

Engle said the squad is pretty young, with only one senior member and five juniors, three sophomores, seven freshman and a seventh-grader.

The girls will use the routine Oct. 13 at the Brockport Spiritfest and, of course, during sectionals competition later in October at RIT.

To purchase prints of these photos, click here.

Photos: Practicing for JV cheer tryouts

By Howard B. Owens

Heading home tonight, I came upon these three young ladies out on Ganson Avenue practicing their cheer routine. Tryouts for the JV cheer squad at Batavia High School are this week and they're leaving nothing to chance. Pictured are Taylor Smith, Mikey Lullo and Chloe Rapone.

BHS cheer takes second at Monroe County Tournament

By Howard B. Owens

The Batavia High School varsity basketball cheerleading squad took second place at the Monroe County Tournament held at Victor HS on Saturday.

Five teams participated in their competition.

Kayla Corp, Jessica Derefinko, Codie Grazioplene and Whitney Athoe received 2nd Team All County nominations.

The team will compete for a Section V title Feb. 23 at RIT.

Information and photo submitted by a reader.

Batavia varsity cheer squad wins regional competition

By Howard B. Owens

Photo and info submitted by Justine Bonarigo:

Batavia High School's varsity cheerleading squad placed first in the Co-Ed Division at Webster Schroeder Competition held Sunday. They will take on the sectional competition this Saturday at R.I.T. for the Class B division title.

The team includes: Samantha Saraceni (captain), Codie Grazioplene (captain), Macey McCulley, Whitney Athoe, James Murphy, Megan Wilcox, Miranda Reed, Heather Lewis, Makaela Kitcho, Katie Garlock, Danielle DellaPenna, Kayla Corp, Alexandria Ernst, Allison Smith, Teiona Kemp and Alex Rebman. Coached by Marianne Sallome and Justine Bonarigo.

Registration begins for two-hour Cheerleading Camp

By Billie Owens

Cheer Camp, sponsored by the Batavia Bulldawgs Youth Football League, is going to be held from 9:30 to 11:30 Saturday morning, July 30, at Kibbe Park. Drop-off starts at 9 at the check-in table.

Cost is $15. Participants must be between 6 and 12 years of age. Birth certificate is required to register.

Registration is 6 to 8 tonight and also from 9 to 11 a.m. tomorrow at Batavia City Centre. To register by mail, send check or money order no later than July 23 to:

Batavia Bulldawgs Football

Atten: Cheer Camp

7 Highland Park

Batavia, NY 14020

Regarding attire, each athlete should come dressed and ready to play. Please wear workout apparel, including T-shirt, shorts, socks and athletic shoes or cleats. NO JEWELRY.

There will be plenty of water but kids are welcome to bring their own drinks.

This two-hour camp will teach the basics of cheerleading. It will include stunts, tumbling, jumps, cheers and dancing! The camp will be coached by Batavia High School Cheer Coach Krista Shamp, along with a few of her alumni cheerleaders and present varsity cheerleaders.

Cheerleading ruled to be a contact sport in Wisconsin; could start happening in other states

By Brian Hillabush

 Cheerleading coaches have been saying for years that their sport is a contact sport and it has been proven to be one of the more dangerous sports in the past.

But the Wisconsin Supreme Court made a ruling this week on a case where a cheerleader was dropped while attempting a stunt in 2004.

She filed a lawsuit against the cheerleader that dropped her, causing a serious head injury.  The District Court ruled cheerleading was not a contact sport and ruled in favor of the cheerleader that was dropped.

The reasoning was that the competing teams do not have contact with each other.

So then it went to the Supreme Court and was overturned, making it a contact sport. That means that cheerleading is the same in Wisconsin as sports like football and basketball, where an athlete cannot sue another a member of your own team that causes a mistake that leads to an injury.

Many people disregard cheerleading as a sport, but with this decision many states could look to do the same, including New York. The Section 5 championships are on Feb. 22.

High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case being closely watched in the cheerleading world.


The court ruled that a former high school cheerleader cannot sue a teammate who failed to stop her fall while she was practicing a stunt. The court also said the injured cheerleader cannot sue her school district.

The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation.


You can read the full Associated Press story here.

Batavia cheerleading wins fourth straight Monroe County title

By Brian Hillabush


Many sports enthusiasts will tell you that cheerleading is not a sport. I disagree. 

These teams that you see on the sidelines at football games and at the ends of the court at basketball games, practice as much as those boys sports teams.

They don't have as many competitions, but so far Batavia is doing as well as possible, going 3-0 with just sectionals coming up on Feb. 22.

I showed up for a quick video shoot and some interviews and was able to see what a group of 20 cheerleaders together can be. Rookie coach Colleen Sullivan let them have fun, but when it was business time, it was business time.

Maybe that's why she's carrying on the tradition of Krista Shamp (used to be Glow), who turned Batavia cheerleading from an average squad into a county and sectional contender.

Heck, the squad won its fourth consecutive Monroe County League title on Sunday, beating second-place finisher East Irondequoit by a whopping 19 points. This comes after sectional championships in 2006 and 2007 and winning a first-ever fall title this year.

The squad has many personalities, ranging from some quiet girls to the boisterous senior Ana Spikes, who spent much of the end of last basketball season harassing me at games.

And then you have some true leaders, like Taylor Chmielowiec, whose brother Mike is one of the best basketball players in Batavia history. In chatting with her, I see a lot of similar personality traits. You can tell that a senior that has been on varsity for four years is a leader.

And then there is the new coach. 

Sullivan is a 2006 graduate of Batavia and was a football cheerleader for three years and basketball for four, all under Shamp, who is her neighbor, friend and mentor.

Sullivan also cheered for the Rochester Elite All Heat All-star team for two years.

She is currently in college and plans on running the program for as long as possible. 

She is 3-0 as a basketball cheerleading coach and can end up 4-0 if Batavia can win sectionals on Feb. 22 at RIT.

The entire roster is:Sasha Mruczek, Carissa Hyde, Madison Musilli, Taylor Chmielowiec, Jamie Turman, Sarah Stendts, Amanda Wormley, Kaley Falkowski, Jenna Sallome, Nikki Longhini, Petra Dietrich, Mari Geer, Alex Saraceni, Morgan SChlossel, Shawna Platt, Ana Spikes, Meghan Dwyer, Mikala Phillips, Leah Mruczek, Emily Sallome, Erika Bucci, Rachel Guppenberger, Natalie Tuites and Amy Schmitt.

Notre Dame cheerleaders take top prize - Updated with photo and video

By Philip Anselmo

Thanks to Lindsay Warner for submitting the following info on the Genesee Region League Cheerleading Tournament. We would love to have some color to go with this recap, so if you've got photos or video of this event, please post it to the site or contact me by e-mail so we can get it posted.

This weekend the JV and varsity cheerleading squads of the Genesee Region League gathered for their annual tournament. The competition travels to a different host school every few years and this year was the first for Elba High School and Michelle Merrill, their head coach.

The competition is run much like Winter Cheerleading Sectionals in that each team performs twice on the mat- once in a cheer only round and than again using the tradition cheer/dance routine. Grand Champion is determined by the squad who carries the highest total score. Since the inception of this competition that score belonged to the Holley Hawks- that is until this weekend.

Notre Dame has competed in this tournament for years and since Coach Lindsay (Rapone) Warner began coaching, grand champion was set as the ultimate goal. Holley High School, who is class B2 with nearly twice as many squad members, doesn’t make for much of a fair fight. This year Notre Dame has 14 members, 6 of which are new additions to the varsity team from last year. Nevertheless, Notre Dame was able to top Holley’s squad of 27 by 6 points in Round One which was very exciting for the squad as a last second decision was made to throw out the original cheer and learn a completely new one less than a week before the day’s performance. Overall the Irish stole grand champion by 4 points.

“My team was aware that the odds were against us in our goal to get grand champ. Holley is a great competitor and is well known for their themed routines, which this year, was Legally Blonde,” coach Lindsay Warner. The squad worked very hard to prepare for this competition, including two full practices before each of their games this week. The girls wanted it and their efforts certainly paid off. Assistant coach, Sheri Girvin, who is an alumni of Holley High School and former recipient of Grand Champion as a Hawk joined the Irish last year and was thrilled to receive Grand Champion again, now as a Notre Dame coach.

Squad captains are Stacy Squire, Kristen Francis, and Lauren DiFante, two of which are seniors and are very hopeful that this is just the start of a very successful final season for them at Notre Dame.


JV CHEER DI- Holley 177, Attica 173, Alexander 170; DII- Kendall 137
JV CHEER/DANCE DI- Holley 179,Attica 169, Alexander 156; DII Kendall 150
Varsity CHEER DI-Holley 184, Attica 179, Alexander 174, Oakfield 109; DII Notre Dame 190, Elba 173, Kendall 157, Lyndonville 150
Varsity CHEER/DANCE DII- Notre Dame 185, Kendall 166, Elba 164, Lyndonville 146

Batavia cheerleaders win title?

By Brian Hillabush

I am one of the few sports guys that will call cheerleading a sport, but I love hearing about these girls competing in what is a difficult, and dangerous sporting event.

One of the best sectional championships - that I never get to attend - happended this past weekend as the Section 5 cheerleading competition took place.

I heard Batavia took first in Class B, which is awesome. This Democrat and Chronicle story says they did in the photo, but that Geneva did in the story.

Hopefully the BHS girls took home the title and we will get to see them on the sidelines for a while longer during football season.



The D&C updated the story with results and Batavia did win. Holley's Heather Kelly also won Coach of the Year for Class C.

Congrats to all the girls on the BHS squad!

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