ROCKINGHAM — Using one another as a support system both on and off the mat, three Richmond Senior High School cheerleaders earned a special recognition ahead of the new season.
While attending an annual summer camp at the University of North Carolina in late July, Kylie Hood, Natalie Meacham and Maddy Burnett were named All-American Cheerleaders.
Competing in a special tryout held by the Universal Cheerleaders Association, the trio of Lady Raiders were selected out of hundreds of participants to be a part of the squad.
UCA, which is the “largest cheerleading camp company in the world,” sends coaches to camps all across the country to help train middle school and high school cheerleaders.
Being named an All-American Cheerleader not only boasts bragging rights, but gives those selected a chance to participate in other competitions, including UCA’s championship at Walt Disney World Resort.
A total of 10 cheerleaders from Richmond tried out for the All-American team, with Hood and Meacham selected to the varsity team and Burnett was chosen for the junior varsity team.
Each squad had roughly 40 cheerleaders selected, as a series of cheers, dances and stunts were performed to qualify. Cheerleaders worked in groups of four and performed a learned routine in front of judges.
Hood, who is a sophomore main base and two-year varsity cheerleader, shared about the moment when all three found out they’d been selected.
“After the tryouts, we were all together in the gym where we had showcased what we learned,” Hood said. “First they called out all the JV names and we heard Maddy’s name and we were really happy for her.
“Then they called the varsity team and Natalie got called and it was so cool,” she added. “Everyone cheered for us and it was really special. I saw one of my favorite staffers and they gave me a big hug.”
Meacham will join the Richmond varsity team for the first time this year as a junior, working as a back spot. She noted that while making the All-American team was a great achievement, she also enjoyed the week of summer camp with her teammates.
“Camp really helped me get closer with the team,” Meacham explained. “There was a lot of bonding and I think that will help with the trust we’ll need throughout the season. The best part was the lip sync battle.
“It was a little bit of a surprise to find out I was All-American because there were so many people there,” she added. “I was confident that I did well during the routine and was very relieved and excited when they announced our names.”
Entering her first season with the Richmond cheer program, Burnett is a freshman junior varsity secondary base. New to the whole experience of attending a camp at UNC, Burnett echoed the sentiments of both Hood and Meacham.
“It means a lot to be chosen, and it shows that you can go far if your coaches believe in you and you believe in yourself,” Burnett said. “The tryouts were nerve-wracking, but watching everyone else before me really encouraged me to do my best.
“Camp was great because there was a great connection between all the teams even though we didn’t really know each,” she continued. “It didn’t matter if you were varsity or junior varsity, we all really supported one another. I’m thankful to our varsity girls for helping me learn a lot.”
All three Lady Raiders shared how much fun they had during a lip sync battle held at camp. The theme this year was “Friday Night Lights” and the Richmond cheerleaders brought the full Raider experience.
“We were able to create a whole routine that was Friday Night Lights themed and we involved Richmond jerseys we got from Coach (Bryan) Till,” Hood said. “We based ours on what our Friday nights look like.
“We had girls dressed up as players, cheerleaders and the crowd,” she added. “We played the music we hear at our games like Richmond County Stand Up and we turned the lights off for our fourth-quarter song.”
Kickoff for the football season is less than two weeks away, starting at home against Mount Tabor on Aug. 19.
“I’m excited to cheer in front of a bigger crowd on Friday nights,” Meacham said. “And I’m looking forward to a more intense game atmosphere with all the fans and our team winning.”
“I’m also looking forward to a different environment at the high school level,” Burnett said. “I can’t wait to see what Raider Magic is really like from the sidelines as a cheerleader.”
“This will be the first year that I’m not cheering for one of my brothers playing for the Raiders,” Hood closed. “But I’m excited to stunt with my sister Cayden (Hood) and I know we’ve got a really special group this year.”