The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

August 24, 2012

NMHS cheer team expecting ‘good things’

RACHEL — “The old North is back with a new twist,” varsity coach Rhonda Smith said of the North Marion High School cheerleaders.

This year, North Marion has 17 cheerleaders, all on the varsity squad, and two mascots, one for football season and one for basketball season. The girls are freshmen through seniors, including four students who are four-year lettermen, Smith said.

“I have leaders in all grade levels this year,” she said. “This has been the first year in many since I’ve been back that the girls are self-motivating. They motivate each other, they motivate themselves, they keep me motivated, and that just keeps the excitement going.”

Smith has been coaching cheerleading for more than 20 years total. She was a junior varsity coach in the ’90s when her daughters cheered, and returned to North Marion about six years ago when past principal Judd Ashcraft asked her to take over the team.

Smith’s daughters, Mandi Barker, Angie Hayes and Nikki Toothman, help her as assistant coaches. Devon Shadrick, a former North Marion cheerleader, is a new assistant coach this year.

All the coaches are alumni and want to see great things happen for North Marion. Once someone becomes a part of the North Marion family, their love for the kids, the sports and the school never stops, Smith said.

“The community pulls together,” she said. “They’re there for our kids. They support our kids. It’s just a big family.”

At the beginning of the school year, the coaches are usually trying to translate those feelings to the students, but that hasn’t been necessary this year, Smith said.

“When you have that many kids that want the same thing, it promotes a team chemistry and you’re just waiting for the big results to explode in the end,” she said.

The girls took it upon themselves this past summer to meet at each other’s houses to practice without coaches, which Smith said she hasn’t seen since “the old North Marion.”

On July 30, as set by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, the squad could officially start meeting and having tryouts for the season. The team began by focusing on the basics as far as what muscles to stretch to prevent injuries, and then went into competition preparation, Smith said.

During the second week in August, some outside people were brought in to help with the more difficult stunts, she said. Since then, the girls have been getting ready for the first football game and doing more competition work. They have especially been concentrating on getting the technique correct for twist down cradles and have also been pushing their tumbling hard.

Smith said the cheerleaders are now practicing Monday through Saturday for two to three hours a day, unless the team is participating in a special event in the community. They will cheer at every home and away game during football season, and also at all home games for boys’ and girls’ basketball and in-county away games.

The North Marion High School cheerleaders will go to the regional competition on Nov. 3 at Wheeling Park High School, and if they qualify, will travel to the state competition in Charleston on Dec. 8. On Nov. 8, the team will compete in the Big 10 All-Conference Cheerleading Competition in Bridgeport, a new event proposed by Smith and other county coaches and Big 10 coaches that passed in August.

Smith commented that the girls on the squad are wonderful, always work hard, and push each other to do better all the time.

“I don’t think there’s one girl on the team that thinks she’s got it all,” she said. “But I think I’ve got 17 girls that will give their all to do whatever it takes for their team.”

Smith, who was in North Marion’s first graduating class from 1979-80, remembers the excitement that the cheerleading team brought in the past.

“From the time that our cheerleaders stepped on the floor, nobody ever knew what to expect,” she said. “It’s like North Marion always had something up their sleeve that nobody knew what to expect.”

That sense of pride, family and closeness is evident again with the current team, and fans can look forward to a fantastic season, Smith said.

“I think they can expect to see the old North Marion brought back,” she said. “I really expect good things to happen this year.”

The 2012-13 North Marion High School cheerleading squad includes: Cierra Hill, Amber Fluharty, Marissa Smith, Hayley Higgins, Brianna Ludwick, Nikki Shadrick, Brainne Foley, Lauren Harvey, Amanda Sigley, Haley Cochran, Mariah Dent, McKenzi Fisher, Ashley Williams, Marlee Angelucci, Cierra Buonamic, Miranda Veltri and Allison Moore and mascots Brittany Shutler and Taylor Wells.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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