Tar Heel Middle School’s cheerleading squad has earned highest honors in the school’s athletic conference for the 2021-2022 year.
The Panthers’ cheerleaders were named “Conference Cheerleading Champions” in the Waccamaw Middle School AA Conference which includes schools in parts of Bladen and Columbus counties.
“This was a major accomplishment for our school, our program, and our cheerleaders individually,” THMS cheerleading coach Mrs. Noel Dennis said. “At the beginning of the season, I was concerned because our squad was so young, but the girls came out strong and worked exceptionally hard. They came together as a team and showed outstanding spirit and supreme dedication to our school.”
Mrs. Dennis said the last few years have been difficult for her cheerleaders. Only five of her 12 cheerleaders had experience in the sport. “Those five were all 8th graders, but they hadn’t cheered since they were in the 6th grade,” the coach explained. Their 7th grade season was totally curtailed due to COVID. The remaining members of the squad this year were 7th graders and had not cheered at all during their middle school years. Then to start off this school year, the cheerleaders prepared for football season but the school wasn’t able to field a football team, again due to COVID issues.
“We had prepared and practiced to start this year off, but it seemed like every way we turned, we were hit with a stumbling block,” Mrs. Dennis commented.
By basketball season, the girls were thrilled to get the chance to demonstrate their skills and all of their hard work. Just barely into basketball season, Mrs. Dennis herself was out of school due to COVID and a death in her immediate family. That’s when several other Tar Heel Middle staff members stepped up and helped with the squad. Mrs. Amanda Murillo, Ms. Larrissa Kulokoski, and Ms. Autumn Lewis made sure the cheerleaders were able to go to a couple of games without their coach. “Our Panther staff is awesome!” Mrs. Dennis said. “We all work together to make sure our students have every opportunity to shine, and these young ladies on our cheerleading squad really, really were impressive!”
The coach said she was “exceptionally proud” of her athletes, but she added, “Even if they had not won the conference, I would have still been proud of them for the hard work they put into this season.”
When she was a student at Tar Heel High School years ago, Mrs. Dennis was a cheerleader. “I love this school,” she added. “There is nothing better than being a Panther!”
Coach Dennis commended the parents of her cheerleaders who brought snacks for the girls’ practices, attended the games, and made sure to pick the girls up from practices on time. She also praised her two administrators, Principal Teresa Coleman and Assistant Principal Brendan McCarthy. “Ms. Coleman and Mr. McCarthy made sure that the girls and I had what we needed at practices and games,” Mrs. Dennis said. “They made sure that the girls had a positive experience as a Panther athlete.”
Next year should be another good year for the squad, as six of last year’s 7th graders tried out for the upcoming year and made the Panther squad again. One of the 7th graders moved to a new school, tried out for the cheerleading squad there, and made it. A lot of the 8th graders from this past year are trying out for a high school cheerleading squad, Mrs. Dennis said. “It’s been a great year at Tar Heel,” Mrs. Dennis concluded. “My girls worked hard for this conference honor, and they truly deserved it. GO, PANTHERS!”
The members of the 2021-2022 Tar Heel Middle cheerleading squad were Camryn Easter, Emma Fisher, Jamie Hunsinger, Sherrell McKoy, Ahmera Moore, Ayana Murchison, Layla Page, Alajah Parker, Jahyrah Priest, Karen Rodriguez, Anaria Sanders, and Ashley Solis-Sandoval.