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Bellingham Varsity Cheer Takes Home Its First MSAA State Title

Shown is the Bellingham High School’s Varsity Cheer team, which snagged its first MSAA State Championship on March 13th. Photo used courtesy of Tracey Elliott.

By Judith Dorato O’Gara
Congratulations to Bellingham High School’s Varsity Cheer team, which took home the MSAA (Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association) state championship on March 13th, a first ever for the school.
“It’s a testament to Coach Elliott. She’s devoted her life to cheer,” says Bellingham High A.D. Michael Connor. “Since she has come on board, she has raised the bar. It’s not just game cheer. They’re geared for competitive cheer. She built the program from a sideline program to a team that dominates in the state. It’s been a top three program the last two or three years, and this just represents the pinnacle of her effort.”
Head Bellingham Cheer Varsity Coach Tracey Elliott came on six years ago. She couldn’t be prouder of her team, which, prior to this state championship, won at regionals (hosted in Bellingham on March 6th), and its fourth Tri-Valley League title on February 18th. The team also does a lot of invitationals.
“They competed in a greater Lowell invitational,” says Connor, “and they not only won Division 4, but won top school honors. They were grand champions, meaning they beat every school that was in the invitational. They were beating Division 1 schools.”
“We’re very excited,” said Elliott the day after the winning the state championship. “We’d gotten second at regional and states before, but this is a first for Bellingham ever to win regional and states. (The team) came together really well. They worked really hard, practiced as much as they could, and they would compete, and if something didn’t go right during competition, they’d ask for a practice right after. They’re pretty amazing. I’m super proud.”
Elliott, who’s coached high school or all-star cheerleading 24 years, credits her captains, Rachel Newcomb, and Courtney Barrows, both seniors, as being great leaders, and she also commended the efforts of junior Juliana Buckley and sophomore Madison Elliott. 
“They keep team morale up,” says Elliott. Her athletes do a lot of team bonding.
“It’s such a small team, and it’s been great having them be so close,” says Elliott. “They’ve become a little family, which is important. Bellingham is a super small school, and we don’t have a lot of alternates.”
Elliott and Connor explain how important being close knit is for a cheer team.
“Unlike a lot of other sports, if any one of the team gets hurt, it takes the whole team down. You can only have so many flyers,” says Connor. Trust, he says, is a big part of that.
“The flyers have to trust people to throw them in the air and catch them,” says Elliott. “They have to trust everyone is going to do their job. If one person doesn’t do their job on the mat, everyone else suffers. You only have two minutes and thirty seconds to get it done. You don’t get a re-do, you only get one shot. This is a huge difference from any other sport, and if you make one mistake, it can cost you. Having faith and trust in your team and being close makes a huge difference.”
Even alumni remain part of the cheer “family,” says Elliott. “All my alumni come back for everything and are super supportive It’s amazing. We’re a small group, but we stick together.”
One alumnus here to stay is Alivia Dussault, who came on board this year to coach JV Cheer for Bellingham, enabling younger athletes to hone their skills. 
The cheer team face a rigorous schedule, according to Elliott. “They’re doing something seven days a week,” she says. “We practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and then they cheer games Friday night (in the fall cheering at football games and in the winter, cheering at basketball games) and we compete. Most of them are also on other teams and do tumbling.” Elliott adds that most of her athletes are National Honor Society (NHS) students as well. 
At Bellingham Bulletin’s deadline, the team was next headed to the AmeriCheer international competition at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida for a 2-day competition beginning March 19th. This is the first time the Bellingham team has been able to go to nationals.
“We got our bid in spring (last year), but because it was a COVID year, there were no nationals and we were not able to go,” said Elliott.
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