Led by their coach Sidney Bisschop, the East Jessamine High School cheerleaders made history last week when they traveled to Orlando, Florida, and became the first co-ed team from the high school to compete in the National Cheerleading Competion.
The competition took place Feb. 7–12, with the EJHS cheerleaders competing twice on Saturday. The squad competed against 21 teams granting them a spot in the semi-finals, where they placed 17th out of 41 teams in small varsity co-ed and returned with the title of National Finalist.
“My expectations were exceeded for sure,” Bisschop said. “I wanted us to go down there and to make an appearance, but they put in the work and they have blown me away.”
In her second year as a cheerleading coach, as well as her second year at EJHS, Bisschop said in order to prepare the team to make its goal of going to nationals, she set out to change the process in which cheerleading had been handled in the past at the high school. She said, when she arrived, practices were only held two days a week. Increasing that to four days a week, Bisschop was able to raise the expectations which she believes has led to the team’s success.
“I started by having a change in the skill level,” Bisschop said. “We raised our expectations on what it takes to be on the team. For instance, in order to make the team, you need to be able to do a back handspring.”
Another part of the work needed to make it to Florida was participate in a Universal Cheerleaders Association summer camp which took place at the University of Kentucky last summer.
EJHS cheerleaders also competed in a regional competition called “Battle of the Bluegrass” last year where they placed fifth out of 12 teams earning them their bid to go to the National Competition this month. In order for the team to go, Bisschop said each student needed to pay $1,000 each.
To raise the funds required, the team participated in multiple fundraisers from selling candy bars, T-shirts and candles to having car washes. They were also supported by local organizations including the Nicholasville Police Department, Well Nutrition, One Main Finical of Lexington, Sutherland Chevrolet, Kochis Orthodontics, S&T Fencing, Frontier Lodge No. 73 Fraternal Order of Police, 27 Vintage Vendor, Families Pet Grooming, KASP Auto Auction and Tickled Pink, who all donated and helped the team raise the total amount of funds necessary, about $20,000.
“We are honestly so overwhelmed with support,” Bisschop said. “East Jessamine High School never had so much support from the community and school. We have received lots of school support from teachers and staff and the student body. Knowing that they have our back and knowing that they want to see us succeed helped our team overall get to where we are. It has really changed how we are viewed as a squad. Their reaction has been overwhelming.”
Bisschop said the team was welcomed home Monday night by a crowd of 50 to 70 people with posters and cameras all waiting to congratulate them on their success.
“There was a big welcome sign,” Bisschop said. “Parents, students and siblings were all screaming for us. We have never had that before. We have never been supported in that way. It is super emotional.”
Senior Parker Harris said the team has worked hard and he couldn’t be more proud to be a “Jag.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent my school and blessed with my opportunities. Because of the opportunities I will be furthering my cheer career in college,” Harris said.
Captains Lindsey Rose and Savannah Hammack said they wished to thank their sponsors for helping their dreams come true, and are honored to be finalists making it to the national competition for the first time in EJHS history.
“My heart is so full,” Rose said. “I don’t know if you all know how much this team means to me. I’ve seen them/us work so hard as a family. We’ve been through so much. We’ve come together and have fought so hard. I could not help but cry on the mat at nationals and (when we were) getting off the bus at nationals. I’m so excited to say we made Jessamine County history and finals at nationals. I would not trade this team for anything, I’m so blessed to have watched us grow and to be a captain for them (the team). I would like to thank our coaches Sidney Bisschop and Madison Faith Agee for sticking with us through all the hard times as well. I love them both so very much.”
Parent Jeff Rose said watching the EJHS cheerleaders’ success has made him feel like he is doing something right in life.
“Watching this cheer team evolve into a great loving family has assured me that I have done something right raising my two daughters,” Jeff said. “I am so proud of Lindsey, Zoey and the entire team and staff. It has been a great year and there is more to come.”
Bisschop said the goal for next year will be to continue to exceed what the team has accomplished this year. Hoping to make it to the third round at nationals in 2019, she will focus on hard work, dedication and increased practice times.
“I would like to just thank the East Jessamine community for believing in us and believing that we are capable to meet the highest goals of cheerleading,” Bisschop said. “Nationals is the furthest you can go in cheerleading, and we made it.
“We work hard, put in the hours and dedicated our lives to this program. We have changed the face of EJHS cheerleading forever and I could not be more proud to be their coach. Our cheer family is so great and I want to thank everyone for all they did for us. Our booster club, parents, sponsors, coaches and community helped us through our journey and I am beyond blessed. We are proud to be a Jaguar. Go Jags!”