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Tuesday, April 29, 2014: Cheerleading's status getting an upgrade

   Leading off today: Cheerleading is on the verge of official recognition as a sport by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association if, as expected, the Board of Regents approves Tuesday.

   A sub-committee of the State Board of Regents met Monday to unanimously approve the recommendation by the New York State Education Department to recognize competitive cheerleading as a sport. The full board, which sets policy for public schools, will vote Tuesday.

   "This is a great step for the progress of cheerleading and tomorrow's vote by the Board of Regents could be historical," Robert Zayas, the NYSPHSAA executive director, said in a statement Monday. "The NYSPHSAA is excited to have cheer potentially recognized as a sport, and a favorable vote will finally allow our association to implement coaching and safety standards for cheer coaches as well as highlight and promote the incredible athletes who participate in the sport with a championship event."

   More than 30 states recognize competitive cheerleading to some extent. Many New York school districts already include cheerleading in their athletic budgets.

   The NYSPHSAA has conducted a pair of regional cheerleading championships in each of the past two winter seasons. An overall state championship event would be a likely future step, as would rules governing the length of the competitive season, the number of events permitted and the minimum rest period between competitions. The implications for the numerous out-of-state competitions billing themselves as "national" championships are uncertain, but some of those events would seemingly have to abide by more stringent rules in order for New York teams to participate.

   Following Regents approval, schools in the state athletic association could still opt for their cheerleading squads to maintain their traditional sideline presence at basketball games or other contests rather than engage in competitive cheerleading. In that instance, they would be prohibited from performing certain higher-risk stunts and would be excluded from some competitions.

   The approvals this week would mark the end of a process that began in 2009 when school superintendents formalized their concern that cheerleaders' stunts have grown more complicated -- and potentially dangerous. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for designating cheerleading as a sport, citing an increase in the number and severity of injuries; cheerleading accounted for two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries among high school girl athletes, the group said.

   "Cheerleading has evolved over the last decade, and skill levels have increased tremendously," Todd Nelson, assistant director of the NYSPHSAA, told The Wall Street Journal. "It's not just standing on the sidelines cheering for your team."

   That's a lot of work: Lucas Sperduti's two-run double in the top of the 14th inning broke a 3-3 tie and gave Lancaster St. Mary's a 5-3 baseball win over St. Francis on Monday.    Freshman Zach Penska pitched seven innings of three-hit relief to pick up the win. Starter Mark Gonzalez also gave up just three hits in seven innings.

   "It was a well-played game on both ends," St. Mary's coach Mike Wagner told The Buffalo News. "It was tough to hit today. You needed to get a guy on third base to score because the wind was blowing in. You hit a gapper and it just stopped."

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   Rankings: This week's lacrosse rankings have been posted, and there's a new No. 1 in the boys Class A ratings after Yorktown (No. 1 in Class B) upended Chaminade 5-3 on Saturday.

   Coaching change: Carisa Gaylardo, who coached Pearl River into the Section 1 softball finals last spring in her first season, has resigned in the wake of publicity over her lawsuit seeking reinstatement as a New York City teacher, The Journal News reported.

   Gaylardo and Pearl Rivers officials said the resignation, which the school board accepted last week, was

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not forced by the school district. The board promoted assistant Chris Woolgar to head coach.

   In email responses to questions from the paper, Gaylardo said she hadn't anticipated her lawsuit becoming public knowledge and has since dropped it. The suit sought to overturn her ban from teaching in New York City public schools and gain reinstatement at Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy. The ban stemmed from city school officials' determination she had developed too close a relationship with a student -- an allegation her suit said was false and had come from a supervisor whose sexual advances she had rejected.

   Pearl River was 1-0 when she stopped coaching April 10, the day the lawsuit was reported.

   "It was a very difficult decision but I wanted to do what was best for the girls," Gaylardo said. "I didn't want anything to distract from the goals the girls had set for the season. I wanted it to be about them and softball and not what I was going through in my life. The school fully supported my decision to step down, but (that) was in no way the reason I made that decision."

   Milestone: Dunkirk baseball coach Frank Jagoda picked up his 300th career victory with a 7-6 win vs. Maple Grove over the weekend as Zack Crandall hit a walk-off double in the seventh after Nick Thompson rapped a three-run home run.

   Jagoda is 300-165 in 21 seasons at his alma mater with five Section 6 titles and two trips to the state finals.

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