• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

WCHS cheerleaders headed to nationals

SIX DAYS BEFORE leaving to Disney World for the annual UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship, the Woodford County High School cheerleading squad practiced their pyramid routine. (Photo by John McGary)

They’re going to Disney World. That phrase, typically heard from a Super Bowl MVP, is one of the things that keeps the 22-strong Woodford County High School cheerleading team pushing through fatigue and injury. Disney World will host the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship this weekend, portions of which will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2. For the second consecutive year, the WCHS team will be there. As they stretched on giant mats they rolled out before practice in the school’s cafeteria last Friday, team members spoke about their hopes for the Feb. 6 and 7 competition. Junior Abbey Cochran said she’s been cheering for a dozen or so years, but didn’t go to Orlando last year. Asked what she’d been told about it, she coined a new word: “That it’s like, adrenaliney. It’s really really like one of the big nerve-pushers, I guess. It’s one of the biggest competitions that we’ve ever done. It’s really exciting. I’m excited to be a part of it. Senior Taeyah Deskins was optimistic about her squad’s chances this time around. “Last year, we did pretty good, but this year I think we have better chances because we’re competing in two different categories,” she said. One, called “Gameday,” consists of what football or basketball fans watch them perform during games: sideline cheers, a time-out cheer and a routine to the school fight song. The other category is a two-and-a-half minute display of dancing, tumbling, stunts and a cheer. Some of the girls, especially those nursing minor or not-so-minor injuries, will sit out that routine. “Injuries are an all-the-time thing,” Deskins said. “Like every practice, someone gets hurt or someone’s always hurting, like all of us are always hurting at practice. We go home, ice and heat, and we’re ready for the next practice.” One of those on the injured list is Cochran, who, with one bulging disc and three slipped discs, will only take part in the Gameday routine, and will happily cheer for her cheerleaders from the sidelines. “I’m like really proud of them, because I’ve cheered since I was little, so I don’t know – it’s like really encouraging to see them, like, go about and do how they do. And when they hit an awesome routine, they’re all excited, and it just encourages me to get back out there and get myself healthier again,” Cochran said. Senior Kayleigh Cress agreed that, injuries notwithstanding, the Yellow Jackets have a better chance the second time around. “… I think that having a lot of people already had this experience, they know what to expect, so they’re not going to get together and freak out, you know?” she said, laughing. “We’re a lot stronger, a lot closer than last year. I think we’ll do good.” Freshman Reagan Caudill might be the only member to admit that she enjoys cheering at games more than competitions. “Games are my favorite because your peers get to see you, and at competition, our peers don’t get to see us, so they view us on how we perform at games,” Caudill said. That said, she had no complaints about a mid-winter trip to Orlando. “I’ve been to Disney World quite a few times with my family, but I think it will be a different experience with all my friends. We’re going to have a lot of fun, I know,” she said. Making sure they don’t have too much fun will be their coaches and parent chaperones, including Caudill’s mother. Former high school cheerleader turned assistant coach Devan McCormack said getting ready for nationals has been stressful, as is tempering the team members’ enthusiasm with the wisdom of someone in their sneakers just seven years ago. “I can try for a lot of it. Some of them are a little hard-headed, so they’re gonna do it. But most of what I see – I was talking with one of the other assistants about this – all of the things that were the cool cheerleader things to do when I was going through it are now way too simple, too easy, too – they’re old school, if you will,” McCormick said. Some of her freshmen are already more advanced than she was as a senior, McCormack said. Like her charges, McCormick is optimistic about their chances at Disney World. “I think they’re looking pretty good ... We did a performance last night for their parents after the basketball game, and they did pretty wonderful,” she said. One member of the team only began cheering last fall. Italian exchange student Alessia Arcangeli, a junior, joined even though she knew she’d have years of catching up to do. “… Now I’m like working on my toe touches and stuff, because sometimes I look at them and I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I’m never going to do these, you know?” she said, adding that soccer, the national sport in Italy, doesn’t have cheerleaders. Like members of the “injured reserve” list, Arcangeli will only take part in the Gameday routine. When she goes back home at the end of the semester, she’ll have this to tell her friends about cheerleading: “That it’s super cool. I would definitely be a cheerleader in Italy if we had this stuff, but we don’t. … This is awesome.”

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