The Rams are the name of St. Augustine's All-Star Cheerleaders, although they are not the "official" team of St. Augustine Catholic School. The All-Star Cheerleaders are actually part of the parish's Catholic Youth Organization, which incorporates all the Catholic parishes of the Union City and welcomes girls ages 4 and up from all over the city.
They do train at the St. Augustine school, though.
"I love everything about cheerleading, the coaches, the routines, and I've made a bond with all these girls," said Bianca Sosa, 14.
"I like to dance and I like to cheer because its fun," said Madeline Vergare, 7.
The cheerleading teams, which includes a senior and a youth team this year, are open to all girls living in Union City, and everyone who tries out is guaranteed a spot on the team.
"I have been here for about 45 years, and my husband even ran the basketball program for St. Augustine years ago," said Florence Morell, assistant director of the all-stars. "Everyone that signs up makes the team. Depending on how many girls there are is how many teams we have. Last year we had four teams."
The competition season, which began on January 14, has had the girls participating in various local and out-of-state competitions, which have so far boasted a successful season of 13 wins and two losses for the senior team and seven wins and two losses for the youth team.
"They travel to different schools all over New Jersey; they went to Atlantic City and Wildwood, and even Ohio this year," said Morell.
"We've been in a lot of competitions and we keep practicing and practicing," said Deja Suarez, 6.
There latest competition, "American Cheer Power" at Hershey, Pa., will mark the end of the competitive season, and sign-ups for the next season will soon begin.
"Most of the girls have been here for years, and they are good and very dedicated kids, which is what makes them champions," said Morell.
At their last competition in Wildwood, the girls placed first in their categories, getting a Grand Champion recognition for the senior team in their division.
"Once you win, it's fantastic; its hard to describe the feeling you get," said Julie Skrivanic, 16.
As for this next competition in Pennsylvania, the girls are working hard and have said they are "physically and mentally ready".
Mother/daughter coaching duo
Morell's daughter, Meredith "Merri" Henriquez, who first joined the team at the age of 3, started working as an assistant coach and a choreographer for the teams by the time she was in middle school. She is now the director of the squad, and her niece, Amanda Viant, is the captain of the senior team.
"My daughter does all the choreography and training of the senior team," said Morell, who helps coach the youth team. "The girls work with five coaches all together, all volunteer."
"I started coaching when I was in seventh or eighth grade, and after I graduated high school, that is when I became full force," said Henriquez. "Our little team is very important because it's our families."
The senior team has a total of 22 girls this year, and the youth team has a total of 12 girls; all currently ranging between the ages of 4 to 18.
"We try to stay consistent with our kids and keep as many little ones as we can, so they can grow up in the program," said Henriquez.
"They are from city schools, private schools, a majority of them do come from St. Augustine, but they're from all around Union City," said Morell. "They practice three to four times a week for about two hours."
Of course, in order for the girls to participate in the cheerleading activities they have to maintain good grades.
"They have to be positive role models for each other, and they know that homework better be done before you come to practice," said Henriquez. "They are all smart girls and we have a lot of straight A students."
Want to be a cheerleader?
At the end of the season, all the girls are always welcomed back, and announcements are made for new recruits.
"My sister was part of the team a year before I joined when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I used to go to the competitions with the music and the routines," said Sosa.
"I was only 5 years old when I started; these girls are my best friends and we do everything together," said Skrivanic.
Since they are not endorsed by a school or an organization, the teams do all their own fundraising in order to pay for their trips and equipment.
"They are constantly fundraising; they sell candy, they have different functions where they ask for donations," said Morell.
The girls, who begin training in July, start learning routines immediately after in August in preparation for the competitive season, which begins in January, and conduct all their training in-house at the St. Augustine gymnasium on 40th Street between New York and Palisade avenues.
Sign-ups for the new season of St. Augustine's All-Star Cheerleaders will begin on May 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will continue the following two Mondays and two Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. Tryouts are open to girls ages four and up.
For more information call Merri (201) 450-3578 or visit www.ramsallstarcheer.com.