AS THE sun slips behind the grandstands, the drum corp marches the band toward the Lincoln County High School (LCHS) field. Students and spectators follow on their heels, many carrying their favorite stadium chairs. No strolling or lollygagging; everyone moves purposefully in the same direction, focused on a common goal – making it to their spots before the Star- Spangled Banner. As quickly as the notes fade, team captains rush to center field for the coin toss and handshakes. The anticipation builds. The giant Falcon banner is raised and cheerleaders, including senior Maleah Stacey, stand two tall forming the lane through which the team will explode. The fog billows, horns blast, and the team bursts onto the field.
The cheerleading squad rushes to its place in front of the student section. The energy from the day’s pep rally has multiplied. Faces painted red and blue chant along with them. Rocky Top brings everyone to their feet, forgetting for a moment that anything else is going on in the world. All their preparation for game night has led to here. But what does that preparation look like?
Stacey and her teammates attended Universal Cheer Association (UCA) Camp this summer. According to a Facebook post by Lincoln County High School, “LCHS cheerleaders came home with 2nd place for their sideline, 3rd place for their cheer, and 2nd place overall for their game day routine. They also received the banana for day three. The banana is given to teams who “demonstrate qualities of leadership, spirit and the overall ability to work hard while still having a blast!” Maleah Stacey made All-American, Elleona Cunningham was a pin it forward recipient, and Mae Watt and Maleah Stacey were invited to join the UCA staff next summer.”
Camp is one of Stacey’s favorite memories. “[It’s] my favorite cheer memory, just because it was fun, and we were very successful, got a lot of awards, and we bonded.
As the days of summer passed by, the pages flipped slowly and silently to a new chapter. Last season’s juniors have become leaders, and the bonds formed at camp are evident as the team gathers around the seniors for practices. Cheers, dances, and routines are perfected under their supervision and the coaches’. The team practices their stunts as the routine builds, step by step.
Through the prior seasons of cheer, Stacey’s friendships and cheer skills have grown too, along with her insight into cheer’s bigger picture.
Trust, communication, and spirit forms the bottom of the pyramid.
Stacey said, “You have to have trust… a lot, for stunting. We put each other up in the air. For stunting, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it you have to communicate to your teammates to avoid getting hurt. You have to bring spirit to encourage the crowd to be involved in the game. We’re cheering them on whether winning or losing, and we’re also encouraging the crowd to cheer along with us.”
Back to game day, class competitions at the pep rally rev up the students for the game to come later in the day.
“We usually start with the competition. Each class has its cheer, and we teach it to them. Each cheerleader leads their class, and whoever’s the loudest wins. We shout cheers, show band dances, and sometimes we choose students from the crowd to play games. The pep rallies are fun and very loud and competitive,” Stacey said.
And to think this Falcon arrived here following an Eagle – a South Lincoln Middle School Eagle. Through her kindergartener eyes, that Eagle had a dream job. Filling the suit with blue and green pride was her brother, Kellen Robinson. She followed him to all the games, both basketball and football, and the camps they hosted in the summers; even his work in the Christmas parades was glamorous. She wanted to stir up school spirit just like him and began cheering at an early age.