State title caps years of MHS cheerleading dominance

Montville High School Cheerleading team and coach Theresa Quibble, far right, celebrate victory. (Photo submitted)
Montville High School Cheerleading team and coach Theresa Quibble, far right, celebrate victory. (Photo submitted)

Theresa Roderick Quibble has maintained an open-door policy in her eight years as coach of Montville High School Cheerleading.

“If you don’t think we’re a sport, come to one of my practices and let’s see if you can hold your own,” Quibble said a few days after her team won the Class S state championships earlier this month.

“People think it’s standing on the sidelines clapping your hands. That’s not what cheerleading is anymore. These girls train. Not just anybody can do it.”

The state title, Montville’s first in a girls’ sport since the 1982 cross country team, came a couple weeks after the team won its division at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championships.

Quibble, 32, said it was initially “a rebuilding year for us,” noting there were only three seniors and two juniors on her team of 14, the smallest group she’s ever coached.

“I didn’t expect to have the success we had,” she acknowledged. “I worked them to the bone. Some of the girls left exhausted, mad and tired, as did I. They really pushed themselves to do what they did, and they became my most successful girls.”

Senior Emily Funk described the March 4 state battle as “the craziest weekend,” as a storm pushed back the event two days and Montville ended up being the last team to compete.

“It’s not the best idea to watch all the teams,” Funk said. “We were progressively getting even more nervous. We had stretched an hour before and were getting cold. We had no idea how it was going to go.”

And then, “we left it on the mat,” Funk said, as the team beat all competitors and edged second-place Holy Cross 166.7 to 165.1.

“It was the best we had ever done our routine,” said Funk, who’s cheered all four years. “I was so confident and I’m not usually like that. I’m proud of myself and these girls.”

As to Quibble’s drilling, Funk said, “It’s not terrible.”

“We have a lot of fun,” she said. “She lets us take the reins sometimes, and if we want to work on something new, she’s always for it. We’re all close, so we get a little out of control and she has to calm us down and say, ‘Hey, we’re here for a reason.’ That’s a good thing.”

Quibble said the team focused on stunting this year at the expense of tumbling, building up experience and working with a new flyer, freshman Kaelynn Levine.

“It was a lot of cuts and bumps and bruises ... but they really worked for it,” Quibble said.

Dedication to dominance

In addition to four weekly practices, the girls cheer at basketball and football games, compete on weekends, and a few try to hold down jobs, Quibble said. In their spare time, they go to class.

“Even when you’re not at practice, you’re thinking about practice, or sore from practice, or getting ready for competition,” Funk said. “It’s an everyday thing.”

The ECC victory was nothing new for the cheerleaders, who secured the ECC title four years in a row and won the conference six of the last eight years. Those two years they fell behind? Second place in 2012; third in 2014.

Quibble credited Funk and her other two seniors, Olivia Bartolotta and Sarah May, who also cheered all four years, for helping lead the team and being “a big part of our success.”

But it’s a bittersweet time for Quibble, who a few months ago accepted a coaching position at the East Celebrity Elite All-Star gym. With two young children at home, she says it’s time to give up the high school coaching job where she’s known so much success for almost a decade.

She added that her husband, Allyn Quibble, will coach Ledyard Wrestling, and “it’s time for me to support him.”

“It’s not easy to take over a successful program,” she said, noting so far it’s been tough to find takers. “It’s definitely a compliment that nobody feels they can take over, but it scares me. I don’t want to see the team go down. I’d love for it to be an alum, somebody who understands our traditions.”

Funk, a long-time dancer who’s still debating where to go to college, said she wasn’t planning on continuing cheerleading after high school. Instead, she wants to focus on earning an engineering degree.

Asked if she’d consider a local engineering job and eventually serving as Montville’s coach, Funk chuckled and said, “Maybe that’s the plan.”

b.kail@theday.com

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