Meet the 2017 Cheer Derby Ambassadors
BELLA CONNOR - TRIPLE CROWN CHEER COMPANY
Bella’s personality and leadership shines not only in the gym, but also in the community, her church and in the classroom. She maintains an excellent report card while finding time to encourage her teammates. Bella is active bagging, sealing, and shipping meals to needy families in Honduras. Although she is only nine-years-old, she shows an extreme passion for her teammates, coaches and the sport of cheer. “Her kind-heartedness and compassion for others is undeniable. Bella loves with no boundaries and with all of her heart and soul. She gives more than she takes, and leaves an impression on others’ lives. She is the friend and teammate everyone wants to have,” states head coach Samantha Alongi. Bella feels that people often underestimate her because she tends to be the youngest on her team, but this just makes her work even harder. “People see me as cute and little. I have to show them that I am a serious athlete who can hold their own,” says Bella herself.
BRIANNA LEWIS - BUCKEYE ALLSTARS
Not only does Brianna know how to base, jump and tumble, this rising senior in high school also exceeds in the classroom and on the track. She maintains a 3.4 GPA while participating in student council. Between helping with the Special Needs team at her gym, teaching tumbling classes and being an active member of her church, she still finds the time to volunteer at local tractor pulls with the FFA and leading the younger members of her 4H group on tours of a local dairy farm. Her coach describes her as being kind hearted, smart, level headed and responsible. In the words of Brianna herself, “I believe I was born a natural leader. I am a great leader because of my many different experiences, my open mind, and my ability to be constantly supportive. I always encourage my team to take the next step to be the best that we can.”
CAITLYN BELL – CHEER ZONE ALLSTARS
Although she spends a lot of time in the gym, Caitlyn finds time to run cross-country races, sing in her school’s extra-curricular choir, and participate in the future teacher program. She has also received high academic achievements and earned a “job” in the school library each morning. A teacher at her school that has known her for four years told us, “Caitlyn worked with a variety of students helping with reading and math. She possesses a natural demeanor that left all the students feeling smarter and eager to work with her again.” In the six years Caitlyn has been cheering, she has discovered her love for being apart of a team and making long lasting friendships. She has expressed how important it is to be dedicated and have a positive attitude.
FAITHE BOLIN – ALL 4 CHEER
When Faithe first walked into All 4 Cheer, her coaches say that she instantly fit into the family. “Faithe is very coachable. She pays attention to detail and is constantly applying the coaches’ corrections to improve her skill set,” said Coach Ryan Long. Outside of the gym, this base likes to volunteer at a rehabilitation home and enjoys running 5Ks for various organizations; she likes to participate in at least three a year! Faithe fell in love with cheerleading when she started the sport in kindergarten. She is now capable of leading her team in pep talks and is supportive of her teammates when they are struggling on a certain skill. “I don’t tear them down with criticism, but I try and build them up,” said Faithe.
HANNAH GARRETT – NORTH ELITE ALL-STARS
Hannah’s coach Brittney Lakes describes her as loyal, respectful, and determined. She went on to tell us that she has “had the pleasure of watching Hannah grow to become an outstanding role model and become a very knowledgeable mini coach. She is an excellent cheerleader, but most importantly she has a wonderful personality that everyone loves.” Hannah loves a challenge and being pushed to her limits. When Hannah isn’t being studious and getting straight A’s, she volunteers and collects money for the Crusade for Children.
JENNA MCLAUGHLIN – SOUTHERN ELITE
Jenna is a 4H service leader who hosts donation drives in her community. She also enjoys participating in events like the Breast Cancer Awareness 5K and the Diabetes 5K. Overcoming her fear of falling was tough, but after only a short time, she learned to trust her bases. When we asked Jenna why she was a cheerleader she said, “Because I love competing. It pushes me to work harder and it is super fun!” She is known in her gym for being super flexible and her progression in fourteen short months has blown her coaches away.
KARLI ELROD – UNIVERSAL ATHLETICS
Starting out as a recreational cheerleader, Karli quickly realized her love for the sport of cheerleading. She has now been in all star cheer for a few years and in that short time she has not only found a sport she loves, but a sport she truly excels in. “I have found Karli to be the ultimate gift to our growing program,” said Coach Joelle Scott. “She is a perfect example of why I love what I do.” Joelle continued to tell us how Karli brings a special charisma to every practice and to her team as a whole. When Karli isn’t having fun in the gym, she’s having fun visiting nursing homes and being involved in the Empty Bowl Project.
Kendra blew us away with the number of academic awards she has won, in addition to winning first place in the History Contest. She volunteers at Breast Cancer walks and Jr. Pro Cheer Clinics and also enjoys helping with school activities and functions. If this weren’t enough, she collects coats and jackets in the winter to donate to those in need. Kendra also has a passion for helping her teammates be successful. She likes to lead by example and has the heart and desire to be the best. “I’m in love with the sport and all that it offers.” She said “Being a cheerleader has made me stronger mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.” Kendra was injured for two months and then had a mental block once she returned. Instead of giving up and stepping down, Kendra refocused her training and vision and defeated the overwhelming obstacle.
KENNEDY JONES – CHEERVILLE ATHLETICS
As an infant, Kennedy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and was predicted to never walk or talk. This amazing twelve-year-old never let that get her down and proved those doctors wrong. She became a cheerleader as a way to get physical therapy in a “fun” way. Kennedy also has epilepsy, which is a huge barrier to her becoming a cheerleader, but throughout the years, she has gained tremendous confidence and made some amazing friends (both her teammates and her coaches). “Kennedy is always ready for practice and loves to try new stunts with Coach Tom!” said her mom. Her favorite stunt is a handstand to liberty.
KHERINGTON BRANSTETTER – INFINITY CHEER TENNESSEE
“The gym is my favorite place to be, and the people there are like my family,” Kherington said. When this wannabe coach isn’t in the gym, she is at home making up cheer routines or working on her tumbling. Skills don’t always come easy for Kherignton, but she works endless hours until she gets it right. Her parents taught her that she can do anything she puts her mind to and removed the word “can’t” from her vocabulary a long time ago. “Although she is the youngest cheerleader on her team, she is looked up to as a leader by all of her teammates because of her can-do attitude,” said Coach Brooke Meeker. Kherington is also a member of an anti-bullying campaign and is involved with Shoes 4 Souls.
LEAH BLANKENSHIP – BOWLING GREEN HIGH SCHOOL
Leah doesn’t only enjoy cheering her school on from the sidelines, but she also refers to competing as “the best two and a half minutes in sports!” This high school cheerleader is always willing to help others and push them to do their best. Leah is also an extremely hard worker with an internal drive to be the best she can be. She is a leader on and off the mat. She volunteers at New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding Center, as well as at the Humane Society. The Principal from Leah’s Elementary School said, “Leah was always prepared. She consistently showed respect, she could be trusted and definitely had integrity. She was dependable and she showed effort both inside and out of the classroom.”
MACEY HALL – KY PRIDE ALL-STARS
At only six years old, this little girl has blown her coaches away with how rapidly she has progressed and how non-stop she is in the gym. She is either practicing with her team, taking tumbling classes or working on skills at open gym at least five days a week and still finds time to be involved in American Heritage Girls at her church. “When I first started working with Macey, I could tell big things were ahead for this pint sized little girl,” said Coach Marcus Moen. “She may be little, but she is mighty,” he added. She has no fear and always has a look of determination. This impressive tumbler lives for cheerleading.
MASYN ANN ELAM – TRIPLE CROWN ELITE
This little performer loves to be in the spotlight! Masyn was on the team that won Overall Grand Champion at Cheer Derby 2016, so her and her team were on the cover of the 2016 May The Cheer Leader Magazine Issue. She loves to flip, stunt, compete, and most of all, hang out with her best friends she’s met through the sport. Masyn’s teacher describes her as “smart, sweet and social.” She is also an enthusiastic student that is quick to grasp new concepts and apply them to “real life.” Even though Masyn is the youngest Cheer Derby Ambassador, she knows how important it is to be involved in the community. She likes to pick up litter in her subdivision and go to the local animal shelter to play with the animals.
MELANIE RAE CARY – TUCK DYNASTY ATHLETICS
Melanie has been tumbling since she was only three years old. “She is self-driven and will often spend her spare time in the gym working on tumbling skills,” explained the coaching staff at Tuck Dynasty Athletics. This little ball of energy is known to be the youngest on her team, but she is still able to take direction and make needed corrections. Even at her young age, she isn’t intimidated to take the floor by herself and compete in individuals. When she isn’t busting her butt in the gym, she is actively involved in the summer library reading program.
REECE SHIRLEY – HCA GEMS
“Cheerleading is my passion. Cheer makes me really, really happy. It just makes me feel right. Nothing feels wrong when I cheer. It’s like the world stops, and it’s just me and my team cheering.” Those are the words of Diana, herself. This six-time “Jump Off” winner has needed time management skills in order to excel on her cheer teams, play on her select soccer team and volunteer as a makeup artist for her community play. She is also in the BETA club at school, assists with the special needs cheer team at her gym, and collects and delivers food to local needy families. Diana’s coach describes her as self-motivated, goal oriented and very selfless. She also expresses how positive, humble and patient she is. It is important to Diana to make others feel good and help them overcome their fears. She understands that sometimes things are out of her control, but she does whatever she can to help.
SAVANNAH BERLIN BYRD – SPIRIT EXPLOSION
Every year, around Christmas time, Savannah participates in Shop with a Cop. “I love helping the kids in the program find their favorite gifts, and seeing them leave to go home with smiles on their faces,” she said. Savannah also loves performing in front of crowds; it makes her feel like a star. This ten-year-old likes to set goals for herself and stays focused until she achieves them. Savannah said that one of the biggest obstacles she has had to overcome was learning how to deal with constructive criticism and knowing the difference between the two, constructive and criticism. “I’ve learned that it actually helps me grow into a better athlete,” she explains. One day, Savannah would like to cheer at the University of Louisville and hopes to compete at the USASF Worlds as a Level 6 athlete.
SELEXA SMITH – EXTREME ALL STARS
This exceptional student doesn’t only stand out in the classroom, but also on the cheer floor. Selexa likes going to team practices, but she enjoys taking private lessons to progress on her individual skills, too. “She is a hard worker and is always trying to improve and push herself,” described Coach Drew Bewley White. When Selexa isn’t in the gym, she stays very involved in her community. She participates in food drives for the local food pantry, collects mittens and hats for the needy, and contributes to the Leukemia Foundation called “Pennies for Patients,” just to name a few things.
TANNER REED ELLIOTT – HOLLYWOOD ALL STARS
“Tanner puts forth the effort in tumbling and cheerleading that every coach and gym owner dreams of,” explained Coach Patrick Cowherd. “This young lady eats, drinks and lives cheerleading all year round,” he continues. In order to balance all of her cheerleading practices and her schoolwork, this talented individual has to be extremely organized. Plus, she still finds time to participate in Relay for Life and the Buddy Walk to raise awareness for Down’s Syndrome.
TAYLOR NANTZ – SOUTHERN KENTUCKY ATHLETICS
Not everyone can say they have an award named after them, but Taylor can! At Southern Kentucky Athletics, the Nantz Award is given out each year to the one athlete that demonstrates the most spirit. Taylor’s coaches have witnessed her growth and development over the past few years. “Her development comes not only in the area of athletic ability and performance, but in maturity, leadership and character, as well,” said gym owner Kevin Spencer. She not only displays these great qualities in the gym, but also in the community. She is active in helping raise money and awareness for many great causes, participates regularly in the Locks of Love program and volunteers as one of the buddy coaches for the SKY Special Needs team. In the words of Taylor herself, “I learn and grow as an athlete and person with each and every practice. For me, it is a privilege to get to be involved in such an amazing sport. Cheerleading is my life!”
TAYTUM JACKSON – SOUTHERN KENTUCKY ATHLETICS
Taytum became a National Champion at the first ever Cheer Derby event in March 2016! She loved performing on the mat under the bright lights with the rest of her team. Cheerleading has given Taytum the opportunity to show she is stronger than any physical limitations. “She refuses to let anyone or anything tell her she has limits,” said Coach Kevin Spencer. “She sees what she wants and goes after it.” Taytum likes to lead by example and do everything with a smile. She doesn’t only like to perform with her team, but she really enjoys supporting all of the other teams from Southern Kentucky Athletics.