Cheerleaders begin anew: Squad faces challenge of school, practice, games

Staff Writer

Managing school, homework, family time and friends can be difficult for anyone.  Then add hard practices and the potential of getting hurt after being thrown into the air. These activities are part of the daily routine for new KC Rahs who are learning to manage their time with a busy schedule.

Jon Vashey / Special to THE FLARE || RANGER CHEERLEADERS, BACK (from left) Aubrie McWilliams, Kitty Mitcham, Ty Crutcher and Madelyn Haden (mini -cheerleader); STANDING MEN (from left) Trevor Morgan, Ryan Lawrence, Chris Zitko and Colin McNabb; STANDING WOMEN (from left) Chandler Berryhill, Brittnee Duncan, Kaliegh Benoit (captain), Jessica Barnhill and Emilee Engel; FRONT (from left) Megan Reaves, Ripley Ward, Chris Lambert, Patrick Babin, Du’Sharme Davis and Lacey Holland.

“It is harder to study, because we are always practicing,” said Aubrie McWilliams, Longview freshman. “The only rest I really get is on Sundays”

Out of 18 cheerleaders, 15 are freshmen. The Rahs also have a mini cheerleader, Madelyn Haden, 11-year-old daughter of cheer sponsor Melissa Haden.

“One of the most challenging things about becoming a college cheerleader was adjusting to meeting new people,” said Megan Reaves, Kilgore freshman. “Also, learning different personalities was challenging, too.”

Six male freshmen are on the team, Patrick Babin, Humble; Chris Lambert, Linden; Ryan Lawrence, Humble; Colin McNabb, Longview; Trevor Morgan, Amarillo; and Chris Zitko, Mabank.

“Cheerleading is harder than football. I expected it to be easy,” Morgan said. “I was going to go to the Marines, but my friend asked me to try out and I made it.”

Three sophomores are returning to the team.

“The squad has changed since last year. We are a more skilled team and much more positive,”  said Du’Sharme Davis, Longview sophomore. “Everybody on the team is the same; nobody is over anyone. All of us are family and not individuals,–everyone is one.”

On Monday and Wednesday the squad has cheer class 2-3:30 p.m. and Friday 3:30-6:30 p.m. in the Fitness Center. The cheerleaders work on partner stunts, groups stunts and pep rally routines. They also workout 8-9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with an additional tutoring class for three hours and tumbling class from 2-3:20 p.m.

“It is a lot of hard work, with work outs and tumbling class,” Jessica Barnhill, Hallsville freshman, said. “I am used to just the cheer class and not the extra stuff.”

With all the hard work the cheerleaders put in, the squad is lead by cheerleading sponsor, Melissa Haden and new coach, Preston Leslie.

“My expectations for this year are a lot higher,” said cheer captain Kaliegh Benoit, Kilgore sophomore. “We have a director that organizes and plans out everything for us. We have a new coach that doesn’t cut us any slack and makes sure that we are pushed to our limits.”

The KC cheerleaders will perform Sept. 28 at Big Sandy High School; Oct. 12 at White Oak High School; Oct. 19 at Union Grove High School; Nov. 2 at Kilgore High School; and Nov. 9 at West Rusk High School.

“I want to prove to everyone that KC cheer is a totally different squad this year,” Benoit said. “We want to better our reputation and be something that not only Kilgore College, but also the community can be proud of.”

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