After three coaches in as many years, the eighth-grade cheerleaders at West Jessamine Middle School are settling into a comfortable routine with their new leader — and it has already shown with success at a summer camp.
Kristin Williams took the reins of the program after the previous coach resigned in May. Williams, who cheered in Jessamine County schools before the East-West split, was encouraged to apply by her niece, a West Middle cheerleader.
“I have two boys — a 14-year-old and a 1-year-old — so I wasn’t really into the girls’ stuff,” Williams said. “I would always come to every game because my son played basketball and she cheered. I was here anyway, and I thought it wasn’t going to be that much more time, which has turned into a lot more time.”
Williams held tryouts in June and got about a dozen practices in before heading off to one of the last available camps of the summer, put on by the National Cheerleading Association near the end of July at Western Kentucky University
“The purpose of the camp is to learn more routines and to bond as a team,” said Allie Holt, an eighth-grader and a co-captain.
The team was one of five from Kentucky and Tennessee at the camp. At the end of the week, the West Middle cheerleaders came out on top, placing first in game-day and performance cheer competitions.
The team also won a safety award at camp and Meg Chaffin won an individual award that honors qualities of teamwork, leadership and determination.
West Middle was the only team to have all its members nominated for all-American, with three making the team — Holt, eighth-grader Morgan Lunsford and seventh-grader Madison McAnly.
Holt, co-captain Kaylee Porch and Lunsford said they all hope to cheer at West Jessamine High School next year. They agreed it had been tough to go through three coaches in three years at West Middle.
“It’s really different, because all three of them have coached differently,” Holt said. “It’s kind of hard to transition so much.”
The trip to summer camp was a first for the eighth-graders; Lunsford and Porch said they appreciated Williams’ experience and control when they looked back at last year.
“Nothing was as organized, and we didn’t get to do a lot of things last year that we’ve got to do this year,” Porch said.
Williams has been working closely with West High cheerleading coach Tiffany Allen to make smoother transitions between the programs.
“We want to build a bridge from one program to the other,” Williams said. “Instead of just this being mine and that being hers, we’re really trying to find out what she wants them to be able to do by the time she gets them, are there certain techniques she wants them to know by the time she gets them, that type of thing.”
The season goes through March for the West Jessamine Middle School cheerleaders.
“They’re an exceptional group of young ladies,” Williams said. “They’ve all got really good grades and have melded well together, which doesn’t always happen in sports teams in general, much less in girls’ things.”