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Bluejay Cheer Team is back

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Members of the Jamestown High School Bluejay Cheer Team talk with coach Heather Lawrence, center, during an after-school workout in the weight room on Tuesday. Tom LaVenture / The Sun2 / 2

After a year without a Bluejay Cheer Team, a new coach and 19 cheerleaders are once again entertaining fans at Jamestown High School home football and basketball games.

The previous coach stepped down after a daughter, who was on the cheer team, graduated after the 2016-17 school year, said Heather Lawrence, a JHS paraprofessional and the new cheer team coach. Without another coach to step up there was no team for the 2017-18 school year, she said.

This year's team has two experienced cheerleaders and 19 new members, she said. There is no playbook of cheers, drills or training, and it's all starting from scratch, she said. The cheer team may not perform stunts, towers or tumbling routines until Lawrence receives her cheer coach certification this summer, she said.

The team started training on leadership skills, basic cheers and conditioning, Lawrence said. The first home football game was the mountain that the girls needed to climb to get comfortable in front of crowds and grow into a unit that together embodies team spirit, she said.

"It is amazing to see the growth in the girls from the first practice when they were shy and could barely introduce themselves," Lawrence said. "I am super excited to watch these girls come together as a team and working really hard as a unit."

Kassidy Lynch, 14, a freshman, said she was in dance and this is her first time cheerleading. She said she enjoys the combination routines and looks forward to advanced routines when the team is certified.

"I didn't think it would be so friendly and welcoming," Lynch said. "We're all like best friends."

The workouts are strenuous and will help prepare the girls to learn more difficult routines, she said. It is easier to push yourself in a group training than on your own, she said.

Andrew Johnson, physical education teacher and fitness coach for the cheer team, said he arranges training time for all the sports teams and this is the first time he recalled that the cheer team ever used the weight room. Some girls have weight room experience and help those who do not, he said.

"They've been working hard and just learning each time they come out," Fitzgerald said.

Monica Ripplinger, 14, a freshman, said she joined the cheer team specifically because it was a new team in a rebuilding year. She said it takes a special effort to build a new team and would result in a strong bond among the the members.

"I expected it to be kind of like a dance team," Ripplinger said. "But right now it's more about self-esteem and projecting your voice to get the respect of the crowds."

Lawrence has a good vision for the team, Ripplinger said. She is also helping the girls put together fundraising events to purchase uniforms, she said.

The girls are learning skills and attitudes that will carry them through life, Lawrence said. Cheerleading offers a vital community connection that will transition from school spirit to life spirit, she said.

"It's not just about being a cheerleader," Lawrence said.

Kayleigh Buchanan, 15, is a sophomore cheer team member who said she enjoys the experience and has made a lot of friends. She spent the first game as the school mascot.

"The challenge is getting out in front of people," Buchanan said.

Lawrence is well-liked by the cheer team for bringing a group of people together as a unit, she said.

"We are all different and accept each other and she emphasizes that," Buchanan said.

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