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Not just cheerleaders

By By Matthew Nascone
Cheerleading to some people is just a bunch of pretty girls shaking pom poms, but the Escambia Academy varsity cheerleaders are proof that cheerleading squads everywhere are much more athletic than people give them credit for.
Each member of the EA cheerleading squad has participated in at least one other sporting team at the Academy. These girls answer a resounding "yes" when asked if cheerleaders are athletes.
"It takes a lot of dedication and you have to learn how to balance work with sports," senior Courtney Bruley said. "I have cheered all my life and I never played many sports, so volleyball was one thing I did besides being a cheerleader."
Bruley played volleyball for the first two years of the reinstated sport at the Academy.
The time management issue seemed to be the biggest hurdle Bruley; fellow senior Anna-Lisa McGhee; juniors Malori McGhee, Sara Beth Davis, Alaina Arnold and Andrea Nall and sophomores Jordan Jaye and Kay Leigh Miller face while doing everything.
Nall deals with hurdles on a daily basis.
"I run because it is the best sport ever," she said. "I cheer because it is fun to show excitement for the teams out there. It takes a lot of time management. You have to divide your time between all the activities and make sure you do everything to the fullest you can."
Nall can be found running long distances with the cross-country team or running short distances and long jumping on the track and field team when she is not cheering.
And there are definitely other advantages to being so active in extracurricular activities, just ask Davis.
"It keeps you busy, so you stay in shape and don't have to diet," Davis said. "When I was younger I watched my brothers play baseball and basketball and I wanted to be like them and play many sports."
Those many sports for Davis include, basketball and softball. Davis, Arnold, McGhee, Jaye and Miller all pull double duty during basketball season as basketball players and then cheerleaders for the boys' team.
The split time by those five and the dedication by all eight girls does not go unnoticed.
"Due to Escambia Academy being a small school, most of our cheerleaders participate in a seasonal sport also," EA headmaster Betty Warren said. "It amazes me how our cheerleaders are able to cheer, be a member of an athletic team and at the same time maintain their grades. They are a group I admire and appreciate very much. The EA cheerleaders are definitely keepers."
The times are different during the different athletic seasons, but Arnold said it is still a lot of time spent away from home.
"I make time to do it all, but it is a balancing act to get homework done, cheer and play other sports," she said. "A normal day for me is I go to school, then we have basketball practice until 4:30 p.m., then I go home and do homework and during football season it is cheerleading until 4:30 p.m."
Arnold is the only member of the cheer squad who focuses solely on basketball when not belting out cheers on the sidelines.
Being with friends is also another reason why these girls are so active.
"The best part is seeing all of my friends," Miller said. "We all play sports together, so we get to hang out. It is hard to manage it all, but since we are all together all the time, that makes it easier."
Miller, Davis and Malori McGhee all play basketball and softball when they are not cheering. McGhee has a simple reason for doing so much.
"I like staying busy," she said.
Her sister, Anna-Lisa McGhee, has a similar outlook on the situation.
"It is really stressful," she said. "Some of the practices for cheerleading had to revolve around the volleyball schedule, but I like to stay busy and I think that is why I do all of these things."
Cheerleading during games is all about yelling out school spirit and getting the crowd involved with a dance or stunt. And that is why the EA cheerleaders do what they do.
"My favorite thing about cheerleading is the dancing because I love to dance," Arnold said.
Anna-Lisa McGhee provided the same favorite aspect of cheerleading, but Jaye had another outlook on the sport.
"I like to be loud and cheerleading is perfect for that," she said. "I also like stunting a lot. And I like being out there with all my friends and having a good time."
So if the Escambia Academy cheerleaders prove anything to the world, it is that cheerleading is not just a bunch of pretty girls shaking pom poms. It is a sport full of athletes looking for another place to show their school spirit.