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Middle, high school cheerleaders learn from national competitions

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After standing on the sidelines supporting other athletes for most of the year, the Carroll County High School and Carroll County Middle School cheerleading squads both stood center stage in their own sport, performing in national competitions in March. The CCHS team won the JAMfest  Nationals Series competition in Louisville in the intermediate co-ed varsity division on March 23-24.  The CCMS team earned second runner-up in the junior high/middle school division among scholastic and recreational squads at the Cheer Limited Nationals at Myrtle Beach, S.C., on March 15-17.

Coaches, parents and cheerleaders say that the experience of practicing and competing on a national level has created long-lasting memories and life lessons that will better prepare the cheerleaders for college and career.

“Cheering teaches leadership and all of the college and career readiness skills,” said Ashlea Ramsey, coach of the CCHS squad who credited her seniors with being the driving force behind the team’s success. “The seniors were the ones who researched different moves and transitions online, brought them back and taught the rest of the squad.”

Ramsey said that the team also dealt well with adversity, which is another important life skill.  Because this is the first year that cheerleading is an officially-sanctioned sport of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, the team was disqualified at regional competition based on a technicality of which they were unaware.  However, their strong performance earned them an invitation to JAMfest Nationals, which includes more than 50 different categories.

Ramsey said that Carroll County High School’s co-ed squad is unique, having had as many as nine males who cheered during basketball season. Ramsey said all of the males compete in fall and spring sports, such as football, golf and baseball. Seniors Zach Beckham, a golfer, has accepted an offer to both golf and cheer at Union College, where team captain Jessica Price will also cheer next year.

Ramsey said that the team worked extremely hard between the JAMfest national invitation and the competition in March.

“We basically had to start from scratch and redesign our routine with the students who had committed to nationals,” Ramsey said. “We practiced long hours after school and on weekends getting ready.”

Carroll County Middle School’s squad also had to redesign its routine with the cheerleaders who were committed to going to the Cheer Limited National in Myrtle Beach.

Parent Robin Huesman said that after the middle school squad had been invited to Cheer Limited Nationals in Myrtle Beach, coach Kayla Webster held a parent meeting to discuss whether the team wanted to try and raise the funds for bus, hotel and entry fees.

“It was a difficult decision, but the girls went out in the hall among themselves and discussed it,” Huesman said. “They said, ‘We’ve worked so hard and come this far; why quit now?’”

Each cheerleader raised $100 apiece and conducted fund raisers together, said Huesman, sponsoring an after-school dance for Cartmell students and soliciting donations.

“The girls had to work for this trip,” Huesman said.  “One of the most impressive things they learned is how much the community supported them.”

Middle school coach Kayla Webster said that the cheerleaders learned many important life lessons in the process of competing at Cheer Limited Nationals in Myrtle Beach.

“The team learned the mind set of ‘we will win’,” Webster said.  “If they made a mistake, they would act like they owned it and keep a smile on their face; they learned how hard you have to work to be successful.”

Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.