Cheerleaders in intense state competition
ALL TOGETHER NOW Olive Branch High School cheerleaders perform their routine in front of the judges and a large crowd during the state cheerleading competition, staged Saturday at the Meridian High School gym.
PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By William F. West / community editor
Dec. 15, 2002
Angie Taylor held hands and prayed with the Southeast Lauderdale High School cheerleaders just before the squad hit the floor for the state cheerleading competition at the Meridian High School gym.
Minutes later, Taylor was trembling with joy after the red-white-and-blue squad completed an acrobatic routine that included chants of "T-I-G-E-R-S!" and "V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!"
One of the cheerleaders, senior Kalyn Creel, 17, participated despite an injured right knee that required her to wear a brace.
She said she believes she and her fellow cheerleaders did their best.
Fellow squad member Hope Ferguson, 15, a freshman, said she has always dreamed of being a cheerleader.
Ferguson said she was nervous before the performance, but not nearly as nervous as Taylor.
Southeast Lauderdale High's was one of more than 70 squads from across the state competing in Saturday's Mississippi High School Athletic Association State Cheerleading Camp.
Diane Bruser, working the ticket counter for the cheerleading association, said more than 1,000 people were in attendance. She said she expected even more throughout the day.
One of those who made the trip was Nott Wheeler Jr., a 47-year-old Delta farmer. His 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, is a member of the Cleveland High School cheerleading squad.
Wheeler's oldest daughter, Marcie, now a college student, was a member of a Cleveland High team that twice finished second statewide. His youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior high school cheerleader.
So hitting the road for long drives to cheerleading competitions is a way of life for Wheeler and his family.
Lori Ann Sistrunk was rooting for Carthage High School, whose squad includes her 15-year-old daughter, Jennifer.
Many have compared high school sporting events in the South to a Saturday night religion. And Sistrunk said she believes cheerleading can be just like that.
More than cheerleading
But the place was hardly all about rah-rahing.
Sharon Garrison, 31, is public relations manager for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, a non-profit organization created after the state's multibillion-dollar settlement with the tobacco industry.
Outside, the air was filling with smoke that is, from hamburgers being cooked on the grill.
A trio of Meridian men Ed Bowles, Andy Lucovich and Mike Murphy withstood chilly temperatures to prepare about 200 patties for concessionaires.