By LARRY VAUGHT
Winning the game-day competition at the Universal Cheerleading Association camp at the University of Kentucky in July was a big deal for the Lincoln County High School cheerleaders, especially since the squad does not have any seniors.
That win also earned the squad an invitation to perform a pregame routine on the field at the VBRO Citrus Bowl in Orlando Jan. 1 with other cheerleaders from around the country in front of perhaps 60,000 fans.
They knew they would have to raise about $1,200 for each of the cheerleaders making the trip — and they are still fundraising — but they never wavered in their commitment to go. They also never let the possibility that Kentucky might be playing in the game enter the decision-making process.
“When we originally started making plans, UK was not even mentioned,” cheer sponsor Amy Bastin said. “The girls were like we could leave at halftime of the game, take the shuttle and maybe go to Disney (World). But now we are staying the whole game.”
That’s because Kentucky will be playing Penn State in the New Year’s Day bowl game and Bastin says her cheerleaders are counting the days until the squad leaves at midnight on Dec. 29.
“We are all Kentucky fans and obviously follow UK sports in general,” Bastin said. “Several of the girls have been to UK games this year. But we are cheerleaders and when they found out UK would be playing in the game, they were so excited that the UK cheerleaders would be there. They actually love watching the cheerleaders more than the football games.”
That’s because UK has won 23 national cheerleading championships, including the last three.
Bastin says Lincoln’s schedule at the Citrus Bowl is put together by Varsity Sports and nothing is really done in conjunction with the participating teams. However, she hopes to find a way to make contact with UK cheer coach Jomo Thompson about the possibility of her squad at least meeting the UK cheerleaders.
“It would be great if we could get in touch with them,” Bastin said. “I would love to at least find a way for our girls to get a picture with them. They would be so excited because they all look up to them because they are the best.”
It would also make the squad’s work to make the trip even more worthwhile. They’ve done various fundraising projects for months to help pay for transportation, lodging at Disney, uniforms, game tickets and more. They have practice Dec. 30 and 31st and an on-field rehearsal Jan. 1 before the game. They leave Florida for home on Jan. 2.
“We will have free time in the afternoons to hit Disney World,” Bastin said. “We get Park Hopper passes at a discounted price, so that helps.”
The squad has five juniors, seven sophomores and seven freshmen. Bastin, assistant coach Amy Mullen and 12 cheer parents will be with the team.
“When we decided to go, all the parents bought in and our school board approved the trip,” Bastin said. “It’s a big honor for us to get to represent Kentucky.
“This is going to be fun for me because I didn’t have to come up with routine. That is stress relief in itself for me. Somebody else get to teach that to the girls. But this squad is remarkable. They learned the routine at camp in two days and then won. They have sent us the routine so we can start working on it. I have no worries about them. This will be my time to sit back and just see how marvelous my team is.”
Bastin said the cheer squad remained focused on his primary job of cheering during football season and now basketball season even as it was working to raise money for the Citrus Bowl trip.
“They have been great about cheering and knowing how to keep their focus on football and now basketball games here,” Bastin said. “They know we have work to do but this is like a prize and we are counting down the days until we leave for Orlando. We know our first job is to cheer on the school team but this is a great opportunity and it’s kind of funny that some of the girls have never seen UK play a football game but now will get that opportunity in Orlando.”
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If you would like to make a donation to help the Lincoln County cheer squad, contact Bastin at Lincoln County High School at 606-365-9111 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.