Bowl Bound

Cheers are ticket for Mountaineers trip to Atlanta

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By Melissa Elkins
For Blount Today

Rooting for a team, entertaining a crowd and memorizing peppy cheers are just a few of the typical requirements of a cheerleading squad, but the Heritage High School cheerleaders prove that it takes more than a pretty face and some pom poms to make a squad truly successful.

This year the HHS cheerleaders will perform at the Peach Bowl and will spend the last five days of December in Atlanta. from Dec. 27-31. They were the only high school squad from Tennessee invited to perform.

The squad will receive the choreography from the SEC Experience prior to the performance dates in Atlanta. They are scheduled to perform at the Chick-fil-A Bowl Parade, pre-game show and half-time show. The show will include squads from
various states nationwide performing the same show in unison.

Cheer squads have to be of a certain performance level to even be considered for invitation to this event, said Tracy Pickens, a parent. Several squads are hand-picked, but not all states are even represented during this show.

The Mountaineer Cheer Squad were one of the first squads in the Maryville area to perform tumbling and flying at the high school level, Pickens said. Basic tumbling stunts include cartwheels and back-handsprings. Cheerleaders experienced in "flying" are the ones tossed into the air or suspended in air.

Past squads have performed at bowl games, but this is the first time for this team.

"We don’t know what to think of it all yet or what to expect. We’re excited about the opportunity to go," Pickens said.

The girls racked up awards at the UCA Elite Cheer Camp at the University of Tennessee this past summer. They received the Small Varsity Team Champion award and individual All-Star Winner awards were given to Chelsey Nuchols and Kaylee Rinehart.

The Mountaineers are also very involved in community events. The week of Oct. 9, the squad hosted a cheerleading camp for children in grades K-8.

The cheerleaders say they are excited about the honor of performing at the bowl game, but they still have some fundraising to do to get to Atlanta. The team is currently selling pecans to earn money for the trip.

"This is the hardest working cheerleading squad I have ever seen," said Pickens. "They practice three days a week with ballgames on Friday. They support their teams, band and school. They truly are ‘Cheer Leaders.’ They also support their community by being volunteers for special events," Pickens said.

The squad consists of 14 girls, a combination of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The team is led by Coach Pat Nelson.
Members include freshmen Jessica Blair, Holley Chambers, Audrey Leonard, Heather Nix and Forrest Sturgill; sophomores Katie Rowe, Nicole Roseman and co-captain Haley Pickens; and juniors Kristen Ball, Brittany Kitts, Kara Moore, Amber Olvey, Kaylee Rinehart and Chelsey Nuchols, captain.

To contact the squad and offer support, call the school at 865-984-8110.

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