01/09/11 — EWHS cheerleaders perform at Gator Bowl

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EWHS cheerleaders perform at Gator Bowl

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 9, 2011 1:50 AM

It may have only been a six-minute performance for the Eastern Wayne High School cheerleading squad, but participating in the half-time show at the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day will be a memory that will last a lifetime.

Twenty-four cheerleaders traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., last week along with their coach, Kerri Lee, assistant coach Claudine Lamie and five chaperones.

They spent two days in rehearsals, with some shopping and sight-seeing sprinkled in, before marching in the Gator Bowl parade and readying for the big game on Saturday.

"They had about 300 cheerleaders from Texas, Ohio and Maryland and they all performed together during the game," said Ms. Lee. "They all marched together in the parade and during the half-time show."

The Warrior cheerleaders were notified in April that their efforts had been noticed -- the squad won the year's top awards for the East Carolina conference and held three years' worth of sportsmanship honors -- and were invited to be part of the Gator Bowl.

"I don't know when they saw us perform but the Bowl Games Association let us know that we were being chosen (to participate)," said Ms. Lee, herself named 2008 conference coach of the year.

While it was a big honor to be part of the nationally-televised event, there was a cost.

"With the game package and bus, it came to over $1,000 each," she said. "But with that $1,000 they got a uniform, game ticket, the chance to be in the parade, a New Year's Eve party, meals, insurance, a souvenir package, five nights in a hotel and a DVD of the show."

The months leading up to the trip entailed a lot of work to raise money -- car washes, Bingo games, barbecue sales, raffles and other fundraisers were held. Area businesses also rallied behind the girls.

"I was very impressed with the community support and businesses," said Ms. Lee. "They were more than happy to help us out. If we hadn't had that, we probably wouldn't have made it."

Readying for the half-time show required hours of preparation. It was made easier, though, by having renowned instructors, including Jamie Parrish, leading the rehearsals.

"Probably the highlight was the choreographers they worked with were from Dancing with the Stars and the MTV show 'Made', that got the cheerleaders really excited," Ms. Lee said. "Jamie Parrish does a lot with Dancing with the Stars and that kind of stuff, he was very personable."

The combined squad learned a variety of moves for the routine featured during half-time.

"They did stunts, did tumbling, did a lot of formations with shimmering red palms and at the end of the routine, they got under the U.S. flag, which was in the shape of the United States," she said.

The opportunity proved to be beneficial in many ways, the coach said -- allowing them to witness what goes on in other programs while providing the chance to work with famous dance instructors.

"I think it allowed them to see that anything's really possible, their talent is just as good as other teams and their talent has paid off," Ms. Lee said. "It's nice to see their hard work pay off and them having a good time and not just being about ball games and practices."

As a cheerleading coach, she well knows the sacrifice it takes to be part of the squad beyond showing up on game day or competitions.

"It makes me feel that our practices are worth it, the time I put in when I work with these girls," she said. "I have got girls on my team who are seniors now that tried out in eighth grade. I'm just glad they had the opportunity to experience this before they wouldn't cheer any more. ... It allowed them to experience something that no on else does and gave them the recognition they deserve."