Two Tuscola cheerleaders will continue their routine at the next level. Keely Cherry and Kyrstin McClure have both signed to cheer with colleges, with Cherry headed to Tusculum and McClure to Lenoir-Rhyne.
Tuscola had signing ceremonies scheduled for late March that were cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but still wanted a chance to celebrate both girls’ accomplishments. The duo represents the eighth and ninth cheerleaders to go onto cheer in college since head coach Tammy Bates’ tenure started in 2015.
“These girls and their parents have been a coach’s dream,” Bates said. “They never missed practices, games, fundraisers or volunteer events. They never made excuses or complained, and all while juggling HCC and honors classes along with other clubs and activities. They are shining examples of what every student-athlete should strive to be. It’s no surprise to me at all that they will continue cheering at the college level. I am so proud of them.”
Both girls toured their respective colleges, spoke with the cheer coaches, found fits, received offers and accepted.
Each took different paths to cheering in high school, and are looking forward to continuing at a higher level.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to cheer,” McClure said. “I never thought I’d be able to cheer in high school, and then to get the opportunity to cheer in college was always a dream but I never thought it’d become reality until I actually got the offer. It means everything. … I couldn’t imagine turning in my uniform one last time. Luckily, I don’t have to do that now.”
Cherry did not come into high school with the same aspirations of cheering, but an invitation from Bates led her to the team, and it didn’t take her long to fall in love with the sport.
“Going into high school, I wasn’t planning on cheering,” Cherry said. “I did volleyball, but I didn’t want to do it going into high school. I wasn’t planning on doing anything, and then Mrs. Bates reached out to me because she knew I did dance and stuff. And she was like, ‘You should just come try it.’ I tried it and loved it right off the bat. I made a lot of friends through there. And so being able to do it at the next level, I feel like is really good to meet new people in college, experience new things and get involved more.”
Both cheerleaders credited their time on the Tuscola team with forming friendships, making them better cheerleaders and teaching them life lessons.
“It’s meant the world to me,” McClure said. “That’s how I made all my friends, because I was very shy before I became a cheerleader. I learned how to be more outgoing. I learned how to be a part of a team, I just learned everything from them. I learned what true friendship is, how much your coach can mean to you, like coach Bates and coach [JV cheer coach Lisa Clifford] taught me everything I know when it comes to cheering. Becoming a successful adult, in all honesty, everything I’ve learned has come from them.”
As much as the cheer program made its mark on both girls, they made their mark on it as well, stepping into leadership roles and setting an example for future participants.
“Keely has grown from a brand new cheerleader as a freshman on JV to a respected leader as a senior,” Bates said. “Her teammates listened to and valued her input at practice. Her patience and determination, along with her easygoing nature and sense of humor made her a joy to coach.
“Kyrstin is the Miss Congeniality of our team. She always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude. I have watched Kyrstin battle back from some injuries and at times, she was only able to participate in a reduced capacity. She never lost her positive outlook and her determination set an example for her teammates.”
Both will now get a chance to represent the Tuscola program at the next level, and show what it has done for their development as cheerleaders.
“It makes me feel really good,” Cherry said. “Tuscola’s not a big school you hear about. And so being able to see I went to Tuscola and that’s where I’m from is kind of cool to get it out there to other people.”
In addition to putting Tuscola on the map, seeing representatives cheering in college will help young Mountaineers know that, if they have similar aspirations, hard work and dedication with the Tuscola team can get them where they want to be.
“I’m so excited to represent Tuscola,” McClure said. “Our team is one of the best out there, and it’s just awesome to be able to carry that talent that I’ve learned in high school cheer onto college cheer and be a representative of that team, and show other girls that are possibly looking to go into high school cheer that if they have a dream to cheer at the college level that Tuscola can definitely get them there, and that the team can get you all the resources that you need to be able to get to the next level.”
Earlier this year, Tuscola’s cheerleaders were honored at the school’s senior nights for both football and basketball, a memory they cherish.
“I’m definitely beyond grateful that I was given the opportunity to have those nights,” McClure said. “Especially being represented at senior nights, because typically cheerleaders aren’t represented when it comes to senior nights. It’s typically just football, basketball or wrestling. I’m very grateful that I was given the opportunity and that our school shared that they care about us.”
While neither got to have the signing day they imagined with schools closed and athletics shutdown, the current situation has given both girls an appreciation for those senior nights, and getting to cheer at their final games.
Both said they “feel terrible” for their friends that didn’t get to finish their spring sports, and talking with and being sympathetic to them has made them even more grateful for their experiences earlier in the year.
“I’m really grateful for that,” Cherry said. “Finishing those games was the best time through high school. Hearing my friends that can’t finish their spring sports, listening to them talk and be upset about it, it just makes me really appreciate it.”