02/02/06 — Wayne Country Day grad a UNC cheerleader

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Wayne Country Day grad a UNC cheerleader

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on February 2, 2006 2:19 PM

It was all so surreal. It was one of those moments that come once in a lifetime, are gone before you know it, and will always seem like it happened only yesterday.

The North Carolina basketball team had just defeated Illinois to win the national championship last April, and Hallie Coleman was right there on the court in St. Louis among the confetti and the pandemonium.

She was in the middle of it all.

"That was the best experience I've had at Carolina, definitely," says Coleman, a junior cheerleader at UNC and a Wayne Country Day graduate. "It was really a privilege -- not only was I there, but I was sitting on the floor. So that was amazing, I don't think any other experience could really match that.

"It was like really surreal, the whole time I was in St. Louis, I didn't believe that I was there. And then when we won, I couldn't believe we had won it all. It didn't hit me until like two weeks later. People were like, 'That's so cool that you got to be there,' and I was like, 'Oh yeah, it is.'"

On this day, Coleman was getting ready for another home basketball game at the Dean Smith Center. Though it wouldn't produce the same type of euphoria she experienced in St. Louis, Coleman treasures every time she puts on the Tar Heel blue and cheers on Carolina.

"It's very exciting," she said. "As cheerleaders, we have a lot of privileges that I think a lot of other students don't get to have. So it's very nice."

But it isn't for everyone.

Carolina cheerleaders aren't on scholarship, they run just as high of risk of getting hurt as the players they're rooting for, and they have to balance books, cheerleading and usually a part-time job.

"It's hard," says Coleman, a physical therapy major who is hoping to go to graduate school, "because you're trying to be a student and you're also trying to be an athlete. It's kind of hard to fit everything in."

Since Coleman is also a football cheerleader, it's almost a year-round commitment.

It's pretty much a fulltime job.

"People don't realize it's as much work as it actually is," she says. "We usually have practice for three hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And we usually have weights and running on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours, and we usually have a game once or twice a week. We usually have one day off, but we're training for nationals right now. So, at the moment, we don't get any days off. You have to have to be really good about time management if you want to do this and go to school. There's not a lot of free time at all.

"It's definitely like a fulltime job."

And like most athletes, Hallie hasn't escaped the bite of the injury bug.

"I've had a broken arm, I've had a dislocated knee, I've had sprained ankles ... it's a really tough sport and a mentally challenging sport," she says. "Basically, it's gymnastics plus more is how I look at it. There's a high rate for injuries."

Coleman was a cheerleader at Wayne Country Day, but her first love was soccer.

I got offered like partial (soccer) scholarships to some schools, but I decided my best bet education-wise would be if I went to Carolina," says Coleman, who was the News-Argus Soccer Player of the Year as a senior at WCDS. "So I went to Carolina, and I decided to be a cheerleader."

But first, she had to try out.

"First-year tryouts can be very stressful because it involves a lot of tumbling," Coleman says. "A lot of standing tumbling, running tumbling, a lot of stunting. In college, it's partner stunting with guys. In high school it's all girls stunting -- it's a totally different change and it can be overwhelming. I just decided to try out and see what happens."

Of course, Hallie made it.

And the first time she cheered at Kenan Stadium? Coleman laughs when she recalls her first football game.

"Have you ever been to Wayne Country Day? Well, you know how small that is," she says. "We didn't even have football at Wayne Country Day, then to put yourself out there with like 30,000 people watching you ... it was way overwhelming. I messed up a lot my first game. But after that, you get used to it."

On this day, like most days, the Tar Heel hoopsters sent the local faithful home happy after another big win. After the alma mater and a brief meeting with the team, Hallie was on her way home, too.

"It's all a lot of fun," she says. "It's a lot of hard work, but I love it."