Cheshire High School senior twin sisters Taylor and Reagan Gromko have become accustomed to the roar of the crowd at Alumni Field. Through the Cheshire Youth Cheerleading program and the high school team, the girls have cheered at games in 10 of the last 11 years.
“Ever since I started in the third grade, cheerleading has come naturally for me,” reflected Reagan. “When my sister and I tried basketball and soccer, it was a different feeling than in cheerleading.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Gromko sisters were unable to cheer at games this fall, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to be around their teammates.
“For me, I love the bonds with the girls,” stated Taylor. “Cheerleading has made me who I am today. It has given me the opportunity to meet so many people and coaches.”
“Taylor and Reagan are both talented cheerleaders,” said CHS Head Coach Samantha Buckley. “They came in with a lot of skills and have built on those over the last four years. They have been a great asset to the team.”
On Sept. 16, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced that it would not sponsor 11-on-11 football this fall, but football and cheerleading teams were still able to practice while adhering to safety guidelines.
After starting practice outside, the cheerleaders were able to move indoors in October.
“We did a lot of conditioning, cheer, and dancing,” said Taylor. “We did a little stunting at the end of the season.”
Taylor was excited to captain the Rams with classmates Anna Kochiss and Brooke DeMeo.
“It was one of the biggest blessing I’ve had,” reflected Taylor. “It meant so much to have such an appreciative team. Even being in the middle of the pandemic, everyone was so positive.”
Taylor felt that it was important to introduce new girls to the squad.
“When I was a freshman, the older girls did a great job helping me and I wanted to do an even better job this year,” Taylor explained.
“Taylor did a great job leading the team with our other seniors,” stated Buckley. “We didn’t have a real season, but she treated it like we were having one. She held everyone accountable.”
With 14 athletes, CHS had the cheerleading program’s biggest senior class this year. For Senior Night on Nov. 5, the Rams honored the girls for their contributions to the team.
“We are so close,” said Reagan Gromko. “I’m going to miss the girls and coaches and the chance to compete on the high school level.”
The seniors may still get to cheer before graduation. Since competitive cheerleading is classified as high risk by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Rams are awaiting word if they will get to possibly perform virtually.
“We are doing Zoom calls for conditioning,” said Reagan Gromko. “I honestly don’t think the season is going to happen, but I would love to be able to do something.”
The CIAC is also working on an alternative winter season in which football teams can start conditioning on Feb. 22 and play five games from March 19 to April 17.
“It would be amazing to cheer at games again,” said Taylor Gromko. “We are going to keep being positive and look out for the team.”
While the future in uncertain, the Gromko sisters have already enjoyed their cheerleading experience going back to their days in the youth program. Along with cheering at Cheshire Junior Football games, they performed in events and contributed to the program’s inaugural competition team, making the 2013 American Youth Cheer National Championship in Orlando, Florida.
“Going to Nationals at a young age is something that we’ll never forget,” stated Taylor.
After their Nationals experience, the girls took a break from CJF to work out at Cheshire Acrobatic Training School (C.A.T.S.) in sixth grade.
“That experience brought more opportunities for us because we focus more on the tumbling and acrobatic side of cheerleading,” explained Taylor.
After just a year, the girls returned to cheerleading and haven’t stopped with the activity since.
“The girls made us want to come back,” stated Reagan. “I love cheering at the games.”
The Gromko sisters both feel that their favorite football memory is last year’s CHS game at Shelton. Trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Rams rallied to earn a 24-12 victory and end their rival’s 22-game home unbeaten streak.
“The last 10 minutes were crazy,” recalled Taylor. “Seeing the football players’ expressions after that game was priceless.”
Prior to the pandemic, the girls focused on pumping up the Rams and their crowd with cheers and stunts in the fall.
“We were fooling around and stuff at the junior games, but we got more serious when we got to high school,” said Reagan.
The Gromko sisters have also enjoyed competing in cheerleading events in and out of the state. At most competitions, teams get just one opportunity to perform a two-and-a-half minute routine of cheer, tumbling, jumps, stunting, and dance for judges.
“It is very nerve-wracking,” said Taylor. “Before we get on the mat, we come together as a team and show our appreciation for the sport.”
In routines, Taylor has worked as a base.
“I’m at the bottom of the stunt and hold up the flyer at the back,” explained Taylor. “There are two bases at the bottom. The position comes with a lot of technique and stress. You don’t want to let anyone down.”
As a flyer, Reagan is lifted into the air during a stunt or pyramid.
“It is all about confidence,” said Reagan. “In my sophomore and junior year, I got so nervous. You need to believe in your base.”
In the past, the Rams would set up their choreography in November and then start competing in January.
“We usually add things to the routine as the year continues,” stated Reagan.
In traveling to events like Reach the Beach Nationals in Ocean City, Maryland, the girls got to pit their skills against a wide range of teams.
“Before the competition, we bond as friends,” stated Reagan. “We take it as a fun competition and less nerve-wracking.”
The Rams have typically ended the winter season with the State Open.
“We see all of the teams there,” said Taylor. “It is fun to see what they come up with that day.”
After events, the Rams reflect on what squads did in their routines.
“That (discussion) helps us improve, so we can be better the next time we compete,” explained Reagan.
In contributing to team performances, Reagan has been recognized individually. In 2018, she became the first freshman to receive All-Class LL and was honored with co-captain Samantha Oris.
“As a freshman, I didn’t even have words to describe the feeling,” recalled Reagan. “All of my teammates were proud of me. That (honor) makes me push harder.”
“I was so excited for her. She definitely deserved it,” added Buckley. “I think she could have got it (All-State) in the last two years, but they don’t give comment on your video.”
Reagan has received All-SCC honors in the last two years. She also won all of her tumbling events.
“I like winning. I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished,” said Reagan.
Buckley was glad that Reagan had a platform to display her tumbling skills.
“It (her success) shows the technique that she has because that is how Reagan was able to win her competitions,” stated Buckley.
While nervous in preparation, Reagan feels that all of her anxiety goes away when she steps on the mat.
“When I go into my tumbling pass, the support of everyone means so much to me,” explained Reagan.
As a co-captain last winter, senior Hannah Roberts represented the Rams as an All-Class LL honoree.
“She did a great job. She took her video seriously,” stated Buckley. “You are given a set of things and you need to film it on video for judges.”
Set to graduate from CHS next year, the Gromko sisters are appreciative of what Buckley and Assistant Coach Courtney Haskell have done for them.
“Courtney and Sam have taught us so many things out of cheerleading,” reflected Taylor. “They have been such great motivators.”
While they cheer at CHS, Taylor and Reagan continue to volunteer with youth cheerleading. Last year, they worked with the Cheshire competition team that placed second nationally in Florida. The sixth- through eighth-graders participated in the D-14 Large Division 2 category.
“I was so happy for them,” recalled Reagan. “I couldn’t imagine how excited they must have been hearing that (announcement).”
While going their separate ways next year, the Gromko family doesn’t want to give up cheerleading. Taylor plans to try out for a club team at the University of Hartford. After committing to Sacred Heart University on Tuesday, Reagan is going to look into cheering there.
“I’m going to definitely stay in the cheer community,” said Taylor. “I want to continue to coach and share what I’ve learned with other people.”