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Although it is only July, the Grant County High School cheerleaders have started working with the intention of celebrating a third straight region title.
“My favorite part of starting each year is the hidden talent we can find,” coach Leigh Simpson said. “When the girls know that all the positions are on the line, there is a lot of hidden talent that comes out. It’s pretty impressive.”
Thirty-eight girls are preparing to cheer during the upcoming football season, but also know the importance of the work they’re doing this summer as they want to defend their region title and finish in the top five at state.
“The summer months are to prepare for ball games,” Simpson said. “We prepare for football games and ultimately that prepares us as well for basketball games. If we do our preparation for ball games now, we can focus on competition during the winter months.”
The varsity squad returns nine cheerleaders from last year’s region championship team.
“We picked up four talented freshmen and we had one girl transfer back in for her senior year from Simon Kenton that made our varsity as a sophomore (Danielle Hayek). Our juniors also have a lot of experience, going on their third year of varsity,” Simpson said.
The team will be led by their two seniors, Paige Mudman and Hayek. Mudman is entering her fourth year on the varsity squad.
“Paige has put in her four years on varsity and that works to her advantage and to our advantage because the other girls see her effort and work ethic,” Simpson said. “They see how hard she works and it creates a leadership style that almost doesn’t need words. The other girls know what they’re doing is for her and what she’s doing is for them. Danielle is also very talented.”
“I wish I still had my friends that I grew up cheering with, but I’m glad to be back. It feels good to be a leader. I’ve always wanted to be one and now it’s my time,” Mudman said. “I have to be a good example and be here for the girls.”
The varsity followed up their region title with a 13th place finish at state last year. This year, the returning cheerleaders are using that finish as motivation to perform better when it means the most.
“It’s got to be their motivation to get out there and give 100 percent every opportunity they get. It’s also got to be a learning experience,” Simpson said. “I’ve told them over and over that you don’t get a second chance. There’s no timeout, other play or overtime in cheerleading. You get one shot and that’s it. They learned it the hard way last year and I hope it’s their fuel that gets them to the top five in state this year.”
Although Simpson hopes the girls learn what it takes to do well at state, she cares more about what they learn about life during their time under her direction.
“I want them to end up better people, win or lose,” she said. “If they learn life lessons and how to treat people, they’ll be better people for doing this. Region titles are fantastic, but you become a coach to make differences in people’s lives. That’s the ultimate goal.”