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By Carmen Ensinger
While members of the North Greene cheerleading squad can typically be seen on the football field cheering on the Spartan football team, on Sept. 6, the ladies could be seen showcasing their talents at Busch Stadium in a cheerleading competition along with six other cheerleading squads.
The cheerleaders performed a cheer and then two-minute competition style dance routine in Ford Plaza at Busch Stadium before the Cardinal game.
Cheer Coach Katelynn Manley explained how the opportunity came about for the girls.
“I had a former North Greene student who is now a high school and junior high cheer coach up around Springfield reach out to me,” Manley said. “Her team does this every year and the sponsors were looking for more schools to participate. It was something North Greene has never been a part of and this former student wanted to give something back to the community she came from so she told me about it.”
Manley told her girls about the opportunity and asked them if they would be interested and they jumped at the chance. However, there was one catch.
“In order to have the opportunity to perform, the girls had to sell at least 100 tickets,” Manley said. “I think we ended up selling around 140 tickets so the girls really wanted to go.”
In fact, Manley said they were super excited about it.
“We found out about the opportunity back in July and they worked really hard all summer putting a routine together because we had never done anything like this before,” Manley said. “We are not a competition squad, but they really took it to another level. They were like – this is something we want to do – we want to show our community and everyone else, how hard it is to be able to go out and put on a performance. I’m very proud of them.”
The girls left North Greene High School at 2:30 that day and headed up to Busch Stadium. Manley said they were full of emotions.
“They were a little bit more nervous than excited, but once we got down there and they saw their families, I think their nerves kind of went away a little bit,” she said. “I told them to just go out there and have fun. This is going to be a once in a lifetime experience so enjoy it.”
Manley and her two cheer captains had the opportunity to go out onto the field and be introduced prior to the game.
“They allowed three to four representatives from each cheer team to go down to the field so I decided to take myself and my two cheer captains, Abigail Jones and Julia Janus down to the field with me,” Manley said. “They announced all of the girls and Julia and Abigail were featured on the Jumbotron. After that we were able to go into the Cardinals Club and hang out for a bit before we went back to our seats.”
For senior Abigail Jones, it was an experience she will never forget.
“I loved having this opportunity to perform with all of the girls – they made it such an enjoyable experience,” she said. “Plus, we all learned so much going through it because we performed on a mat because we never really did that before. It was just so much fun to get to do that in my last year.”
Janus, who is a junior this year, feels the same way.
“This was such a nice experience representing not only my school but also my community,” she said. “It was nice cheering with these girls up there because as we do stuff together, we grow as a team.”
Chances are, there will be other trips in the future, because Manley certainly doesn’t intend on going anywhere – cheerleading is in her blood.
Manley is a 2013 graduate of North Greene High School and was a cheerleader from the moment the opportunity was afforded her in sixth grade.
“I have always loved cheer and was a cheerleader all through junior high, then all four years through high school,” Manley said. “Once I went to college (Illinois College) I also got on the squad and spent four years there as a cheerleader.”
Once she graduated, cheering was still in her blood, so she came back to where it all started – North Greene.
“For two years, I was the junior high cheer coach,” she said. “Then, for the past three years, I have been the high school cheer coach and I love it.”
Many schools see the parents of one of the players become the cheer coach, but once that player graduates, they are left without a coach. Manley doesn’t have children, so North Greene doesn’t have to worry about that.
“I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life involved with cheer,” Manley said. “The first 10 as a cheerleader and the last five as a coach. It is in my blood and it is definitely not something I want to give up. I will be here as long as they let me stay.”