Ella Bardzilowski ’23: CheerOctober, 2023
A roar of excitement rumbles through the New Gym as the annual Princeton High School pep rally gets underway. Under the lead of Ella Bardzilowski ’23, the PHS cheer team begins an impressive synchronized routine. Bardzilowski leads the chants, and the routine ends with a difficult pyramid formation, raising all of the flyers high into the air. The crowd cheers and claps in standing ovation.
At five years old, Bardzilowski knew she was destined to cheer from the first time she tried it. While her family encouraged her to try a large variety of sports, cheerleading was the one that truly stood out.
“I knew from the second I tried cheerleading that it would become my thing,” said Bardzilowski. “It was such a great hobby to have growing up and I’m so glad it’s still a part of my life today.”
After three years of being part of PHS’ cheer team, all of Bardzilowski’s hard work and talent was recognized through her promotion of becoming captain her junior and senior years. Now, the hefty responsibility of leading underclassmen cheerleaders falls onto her shoulders.
“I think she’s very good at the job,” said head coach Veronica Foreman. “The underclassmen look up to her, but they’re still friendly which is an important dynamic. She’s very hardworking, and knows when to take things seriously.”
Now a senior, Bardzilowski is set to participate in her last season of cheer this fall. Through her years on the team, though, she has always stood out as a hardworking and dedicated member of the team. Quick to learn and eager to perform, Bardzilowski has grown throughout the years and matured not only as an athlete, but a person too.
“She's always been very dedicated to the team since the start when she joined, which is admirable,” said Foreman. “She’s very good at what she does, always doing the hardest parts of the routine and very good at it. She picks up things quickly.”
While Bardzilowski has grown throughout the years, the cheer team has been improving along with her, seeing a larger number of participants join the team last year in comparison to recent years.
“I am so grateful that we got such a surprise last year with the amount of people who joined the cheer team, so we got to train a lot of people who had never cheered before and got to grow together as a team throughout the season,” Bardzilowski said.
Becoming a cheerleader is a commitment — Bardzilowski often finds herself putting cheer before friends, work, and other extracurricular activities. For her, this can become hard to manage since she has a full schedule loaded with AP and accelerated classes. However, despite outside academic pressure, Bardzilowski’s love for the cheer team makes it a part of her schedule she looks forward to.
“It can get challenging to stay on top of homework and studying while having practices every day and while planning for practices, games, and competition outside of normal practice time,” said Bardzilowski. “I get to be with all my best friends there doing something I love, so that makes going home and doing work so much easier. It can be tempting to opt out of practice to study or work on college applications, but I remind myself of my commitment to the team and what I get out of this team every day.”
Through their daily practices and weekend games, the cheerleaders quickly became a family given all the time they spent together.
“Our team has such a tight bond. Since we barely have time to hang out with anyone else, we are all each other's best friends,” said Bardzilowski. “We have certain traditions — like team lunches every Friday and getting together to make banners for game days — that keep us close even outside of practice.”
As the team works to form a stronger connection on the sidelines as well, Bardzilowski aims to maintain a strong and healthy team relationship while also communicating during their routines.
“She… is a good captain because she knows cheerleading better than anyone else… [since] she's been doing it for a while,” said Kate Mazzoni ’26, a PHS cheerleader who has been with the team for two years. “She's also really nice when she is correcting us and isn't bossy at all. I think she definitely does her best to make the team as good as possible.”
For aspiring cheerleaders eager to take part in the team’s activities and routines, Bardzilowski shares some encouraging advice.
“Be confident! I always tell the team that cheerleading is 50 percent skill and 50 percent confidence,” said Bardzilowski.“Unlike other sports, cheerleading is all about putting on a performance, so ‘fake it till you make it’ is the key. … But of course, discipline and hard work come above all.”