NEW ROCHELLE – Back when she was just a young sixth-grader, Ade Cornelius didn’t stand out too much.
Having just moved from the Bronx to New Rochelle, she originally wanted to do gymnastics, but was unable to since the school district did not offer it. Instead, she joined the cheerleading program.
Today, as a key member of one of the top cheerleading programs in the state, it is safe to say that it was best decision that the 2016 Journal News/lohud’s Westchester/Putnam Cheerleader of the Year has ever made.
“I was new to the town; I just wanted to make friends and learn how to tumble and be a cheerleader,” said Cornelius, a junior. “I always loved to tumble and do stuff like this. This is the only sport I want to do.”
This year, with Cornelius being one of the most featured girls on the team, New Rochelle managed to bounce back from a relatively disappointing 14th place finish at the Universal Cheerleaders Association national tournament last year.
After a second-place finish at the Westchester County Invitational in late January, the team went back to Orlando, Florida for another chance at the UCA nationals.
Despite having to perform four times over the span of two days this year, the team managed to secure a third-place finish in the competition’s small-team division, as well as a second-place finish in the World Championship competition shortly after.
“Last year wasn’t our greatest season; we just wanted to redeem ourselves and work harder and prove that we are the best,” Cornelius said. “We had a lot of seniors last year, we lost a lot people and nobody expected that we would do this great of a job. We’re just happy we did really well.”
Despite that, Cornelius and her teammates weren’t satisfied. With sectionals coming up and a chance to compete in the first-ever New York State Championship meet, New Rochelle head coach Chrissy Stanionis beefed up the routine.
She asked Cornelius to do more, adding in three more skill maneuvers into her performance.
“Her completing the routine with everything I asked her to do was great because she wasn’t sure if she could do it,” Stanionis said. “For Ade to say it might be too much, it made me think as a coach if it was the right thing to do. But I knew she could to do it.”
Cornelius stepped up to the challenge, and the managed to win its division at the sectional meet to qualify for a spot at states. At the meet, despite hitting a perfect routine in the finals, the team had to settle for a second-place finish in its division.
“The second round, we wanted to make it perfect; we did that, and we were really excited. Even I was crying,” Cornelius said. “Knowing that this was the first state meet, we wanted to be the first team to win. We didn’t do that, but the fact we were able to go and get a top-five finish, that was a great feeling.”
Growing up, Cornelius had always been into dance, and even participated in a Pop Warner cheerleading program. Her dance skills on the floor quickly translated to the mat and after two years of cheering on the modified squad, she made varsity as a freshman.
Even then, Stanionis recognized her potential. Cornelius came up through modified as a base, though Stanionis converted her into a back-spotter.
Cornelius was unsure of the swap at first, she was able to adapt quickly to her new position, and assumed the key role of being the last pass, a role that demands the highest level of athleticism and gymnastic skill.
“It’s so hard to think back that she used to be a base, because she is so good at the position we turned her into,” Stanionis said. “What Ade brings to the team and the skill set she has, it helps push the other girls to get to where her skill set is, which only makes us stronger.”
This year, Cornelius mastered her full, a difficult tumbling pass out of the corner which included a handspring into spinning layout.
“My major goal was to throw my full at every single competition, and I finally got the courage to do it every single competition,” she said. “If you’re scared, it’s very hard to do it. I just got over it and said I was going to do it, and I erased all my fears and did it.”
Though the season is over, Cornelius continues to practice with her teammates during the off-season, focusing on improving herself even more. With most of the team coming back, expectations will be as high as ever.
“It’s my last season, so I really want to do well,” she said. “My main goal is to hit our routine even more than we did this year.”
She also helps out with New Rochelle’s youth cheerleading program where she coached children.
According to Stanionis, she is the example that they and the other kids in the program aspire to.
“They look up to her in terms of what they want to strive to get to that level,” Stanionis said. “She came in a very shy girl, and just watching her excel and her confidence grow just from being a cheerleader, is definitely something to be proud of.”
Editor’s Note: In yesterday’s Westchester/Putnam All-Star Cheerleading feature article, New Rochelle cheerleader Zharia Crisp was mistakenly listed as a member of the publication’s second team, when in fact, she should have been listed on the first team. The reporter, Adrian Szkolar, made an error in transcribing notes for the All-Section and All-League honors and mistakenly had Crisp rated lower than she actually was.
The rest of the Journal News/lohud.com Westchester/Putnam first team
Cybill Charles, Sr., BK, New Rochelle
Zharia Crisp, Jr., B, New Rochelle
Kaiya Harrell, Sr., B, New Rochelle
Jenna Hanaburgh, Sr., F, Carmel
Antonia Hoyos, Jr., F, Putnam Valley
Sophia Jacobi, Jr., B, Harrison
Evan Moses, Sr., B, Croton-Harmon
Elina Morano, Jr., F, New Rochelle
Stephanie Ricker, Fr., B, Carmel
Zoe Saunders, Jr., B, New Rochelle
Julianne Statler, Jr., F, Yorktown
Coach of the Year: Chrissy Stanionis, New Rochelle. The head coach of one of the most consistent programs in Westchester, Stanionis guided a relatively young Huguenots squad to a sectional title, a third-place finish at the UCA nationals, as well as a second-place finish in states.
Danielle Chiappalone, Sr., B, Hen Hud
Sophia Falkenberg, Westlake
Anna Logerfo, Sr., B, Maria Regina
Katie Luposello, Sr., B, Hen Hud
Erin McDonald, So., F, Panas
Alana Mittleman, Jr., F, Croton-Harmon
Celina Puzzuto, Sr., BK, Carmel
Ashley Poe, Fr., B, Yorktown
Krystal Shaw, So., B, Harrison
Caitlin Sigmund, So., B, Putnam Valley
Kianna Thompson, So., B, Putnam Valley
Sabrina Winoski, Sr., B, Harrison