Bridget Leneghan makes a great cheerleader on the mat.
She’s not so much a great one on the bench.
But last year, that’s all she was able to do.
Leneghan is a senior on the St. Hubert High School cheerleading team, and now she’s right where she belongs with her team. But last year, her season ended before it got started.
“It was in October, I think it was a week before our first competition,” Leneghan said. “It was at the very beginning of practice, we did a stunt and we nailed it, but when (her teammate) came down, we didn’t have the correct hand placement.
“I looked down and my thumb looked bad, it went inward and outward. It didn’t hurt that bad, I guess because of the adrenaline, but I could tell it was bad.”
Bad enough that it ended her season and sent her to the hospital, where Leneghan had surgery to repair the injury. She also had to go through physical therapy, which at the time was very difficult. But it wasn’t nearly as difficult as being stuck on the bench when her teammates were competing for regional and national championships.
“I got to do everything, I went to everything, even nationals in Florida, but I had to sit next to the coaches and just cheer everyone on,” Leneghan said. ‘It was pretty hard for me because I wanted to be out there. I didn’t know how long I would be out. I was scared about everything. I was scared about the surgery because I never really got hurt before. I just wanted to get better and get back.”
It took a long time.
In fact, the Lexington Park native missed her entire junior year. But she recovered in time to get back on the mat at open gym toward the end of her junior year, and she’s been 100 percent healthy during her senior year.
It’s paid dividends for the Bambies.
St. Hubert has been as successful as ever and last weekend won a state championship in Hershey.
The Bambies took first place out of 36 teams in the varsity division, scoring 89.17 in the championship round to knock off Thomas Jefferson, which scored 88.97.
Winning was nice, but it was even sweeter because Leneghan knows she and her mates can do even better.
“Honestly, we were surprised because we didn’t do what we are capable of,” Leneghan said. “We didn’t know how it would turn out. We worked really hard, it just didn’t go the way we planned. But the judges saw what we did, and it was good enough to win.”
A state championship was high up on the checklist of things the Bambies wanted to achieve this year. The next one is a few weeks away, when they travel to Orlando to compete for a national championship from Feb. 8 to 10.
“The first thing we wanted to do was win a state championship, so we’re happy we did that and got that over with,” Leneghan said. “The next thing we want to do is do well at nationals. That’s the biggest event of the year. The state championship was big, too, and so was the (Catholic League championships), but now we’re working hard to win nationals.”
It will take a flawless performance to bring home a national championship, but it’s something the Bambies have done before and according to Leneghan, this team has everything it takes to do it again.
“I think this is the best team I’ve ever been on in that we are very good and we are so close as a team,” Leneghan said. “We’ve been close since the start of the year. We have good seniors on this team, and we help the underclassmen with whatever they need, and I think because of that, they’re more comfortable to say things that make us better.”
A national championship would be the perfect ending, but Leneghan is happy she won a state championship to match the ones won by her brothers in the fall. Her brothers Anthony, a junior, and Brendan, a freshman, were on the St. Joe’s Prep football team that won a championship in the fall.
The championships were perfect for everyone in the family.
“I think my mom likes the cheerleading better and my dad likes football better,” said Leneghan, who has a younger sister Jennifer, a seventh-grader who also is a cheerleader. “But my dad gets really excited when we win. He loves the Bambies.”
He’ll also love whatever school his daughter goes to next year, where she hopes to cheer and major in criminal justice.
“I’ve always liked that because you’re helping people who need it,” Leneghan said. “Some of my parents’ friends work in criminal justice. I think it’s a great career.”
But before she’s helping lock up bad guys, she wants to make the most out of her senior year.
“Going to nationals is exciting because it’s our last year and that makes it bigger, I think,” said Leneghan, who is also is a sprinter on the track team and is the treasurer with the Bambies Ambassador club. “We hope it’s a fun trip. It will be fun because we’ll be all together and we’ll try to win. It’s (the seniors’) last chance, and we love cheering for St. Hubert’s so we want to make it special.”