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Senior Jillian Rowland earned varsity status with the North Haven cheerleading team this year and then helped the Indians take home a pair of titles. (Photo courtesy of Jillian Rowland )
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Jillian Rowland proves that hard work can accomplish a lot, even in a short period of time. Jillian is a senior who’s in her first season on the North Haven varsity cheerleading team. She was a member of the JV squad prior to this year, but made varsity after putting in many hours of training during the offseason. After helping the Indians claim their conference title, Jillian capped off her senior season by contributing to a first-place finish at the Class L State Championship.
“It was a surreal moment for me. I’ve worked so hard for a long time,” says Jillian. “All season, it was our main goal to win states. It was what we all worked so hard for. The practice, everything, it was worth it. It was like, ‘Wow, it all paid off.’”
Jillian enjoyed cheering for North Haven’s football and basketball teams, but wanted to take her shot in the competitive arena this season. Jillian knew that she needed to hone her skills if she was going to make the cut and join fellow seniors Renee Myjak, Abby Haggerty, and Sarina Sandwell on the varsity squad.
“I’m one of the four seniors on the team this season. I wasn’t originally supposed to compete this year. Last year, I was on JV, so for senior year, you can decide to just cheer at games,” Jillian says. “I really pushed myself during the offseason and in the summer practices. I wanted to get on the mat this year. My three best friends are the captains, and I wanted to compete with them.”
Before this year, Jillian was primarily a flyer who was hoisted by her teammates in the air during routines. This season, Jillian filled multiple roles for North Haven, fitting in wherever the team had a need.
“When I was on JV, I was mainly a flyer. This year on the mat, I was all over. I helped out wherever I was needed,” Jillian says. “I flew in one part, then I helped in the pyramid. I like to think of myself as support for the girls doing the harder stuff on the mat.”
As she entered her senior year, Jillian knew that many of her teammates would be looking to her for guidance. Jillian supported the Indians’ underclass athletes every step of the way and gave them some words of wisdom about earning the promotion from JV to varsity.
“I push all the girls to their best ability. I try to tell them that this all goes by so quickly, and you want to make the best of every moment,” says Jillian. “The girls that are on the JV team this year, I was in their shoes just last season. I tell them to push hard and work hard, and then they can get on that varsity mat, and it will all be worth it.”
Head Coach Kathleen Crisafi appreciates the selflessness that Jillian brings to her team. Crisafi says the senior had a heavy hand in everything North Haven accomplished this season.
“Jillian is the ultimate team player. She has worked extremely hard to earn her spot on the varsity mat and become a valuable part of our team. Her willingness to fulfill any role has helped this team rise to all of its success,” Crisafi says. “As a senior, Jillian has also matured into a great leader, and she leads by example. Jillian works hard to help the younger kids see the bigger picture.”
Jillian is also a member of the North Haven girls’ lacrosse team. She mostly plays the attack wing position, but also sees some time on defense. While cheerleading and lacrosse may seem like far cries from each other, Jillian says that competing in each sport helps her with the other one.
“They both keep me in really good shape,” says Jillian, who’s earned Scholar-Athlete honors for the lacrosse squad. “It’s weird to think a cheerleader plays lacrosse, but you have to work just as hard for both sports, even though they are completely different.”
Throughout her high school career, Jillian’s motivation on the mat, on the field, and in the classroom has been to make her parents proud. Jillian’s father, Mike Rowland, passed away several years ago, and he’s always in her thoughts. Jillian thanks her father, her mother; Tara Rowland; her older sister Peyton; and her twin sister Lindsey for all of their support over the years.
“My dad passed away a few years ago, and I do it to make him proud and make my mom proud, too,” Jillian says. “My dad died when I was in 7th grade, and my dad was there for me a lot. In high school, my mom has been my main supporter and drove me to countless practices and competitions.”
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