Local News

Final Hoorah: MCHS senior cheerleaders prepare for last game

MCHS senior cheerleaders Allie Byrom, Trinity Merrell, and Aubrey Rogers pose in between the Cornersville games last Tuesday. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Reed)

Senior year feels like an emotional time for many students and their parents. The months leading up to graduation get filled with a different kind of milestone. Instead of the first day of school, first game in a Raider uniform, or a first dance, the final months of senior year are filled with lasts. And for three Moore County High School cheerleaders – Allie Byrom, Trinity Merrell, and Aubrey Rogers – their final game on the sidelines as a Raider cheerleader is on the horizon.

We recently met up with the trio on a Friday afternoon for Mexican food to talk about the sport of cheerleading, Raider traditions, and what they’ll miss most about cheering for the good guys and gals in Columbia blue.

Local girls with local roots

All three cheerleaders come from interesting local families and have unique reasons for wanting to become an MCHS cheerleader.

Allie is the daughter of Jennifer and Alan Byrom, who live in the Chestnut Ridge community. Her mother teaches first grade at Lynchburg Elementary and her father is a former Raider football player. Allie says she became a cheerleader after considerable nudging from her mother.

“In third grade, my mom really wanted me to find my thing. She took me to basketball games and softball games but nothing fit,” Allie says. “One day while I sat on the kitchen floor talking to her, she asked if I’d just try cheerleading. I thought about the fact that they got to wear cute little outfits, so I thought, sure I’ll do it. It’s been my thing ever since.”

In addition to cheerleading, Allie participates in the Tennessee State Legislation Student Engagement Team. She’s also a National Honor Society officer, a Class of 2023 officer, and “in almost every other club the school offers.” She also takes dual enrollment classes at Motlow State. Allie plans to attend MTSU in the fall and pursue a degree in public relations. She says her dream job would be with the Tennessee Titans or Memphis Grizzlies sports marketing departments.

Trinity is the daughter of Amanda and Marcus Merrell and she also lives in the Chestnut Ridge community of Moore County, not far from Allie. Trinity’s family moved from Tullahoma to Lynchburg when she was in fourth grade. Her great uncle was one of Lynchburg’s most famous citizens, Little Richard. She says her sister’s cheerleading career inspired her to try it too.

Trinity is a member of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and National Honor Society. She plans to attend Louisburg College in the fall on a cheerleading scholarship and the East Tennessee State University medical school after that. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.

Aubrey is the daughter of Lori Rogers and Brad Raby and she lives near the Cobb Hollow community just right around the corner from Allie and Trinity. Aubrey is the great granddaughter of Virginia Parks and the historic Parks Guesthouse belongs to her family.

“My mom was raised in that house. All my aunts and uncles were raised in that house. I spent a lot of time in that house. It’s located right in the heart of Lynchburg and is very dear to all of us,” Aubrey says.

Her great grandfather was Ray Rogers, a fixture in the Jack Daniel Distillery Postcards from Lynchburg ad campaign for years.

She says she always wanted to be a cheerleader but it took her awhile to build up the courage to try out.

“One year, I just decided that I wanted to try something new and get more involved in the community,” Aubrey says. “So I decided to try out in the seventh grade. I just loved how cheerleaders always got the home crowd going and always looked happy. I thought if I could be involved with something like that, it would make me happy too.”

Aubrey also serves as a Class of 2023 officer and is a member of the National Honor Society. She participates in the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and currently takes nursing classes as a dual enrollment student through Motlow State. Aubrey plans to attend Motlow State in the fall to study health science and hopefully eventually attend the competitive Motlow Nursing Program. After that, she’d like to transfer to MTSU to continue her nursing education. Ultimately, she’d like to become an OB-GYN.

The three spend between eight and 20 hours a week on cheerleading-related activities depending on the sport. There are practices at least twice a week and a game every Friday in the fall as well as multiple games a week during basketball season. In the summers, they also do fundraising activities and community work.

Talking Moore County Raider traditions

From Raider Homecoming week to bonfire pep rallies or singing the alma mater at the end of football games, Moore County enjoys many rich athletic traditions. When we asked the three cheerleaders what their favorites were, they all were quick to answer.

“I really like singing the alma mater at the end of each home football game because it’s something that not only the players, cheerleaders, and band can participate in but really the whole community,” Allie says. “When we say Raider for life, we really mean it and it shows in those crowds.”

Trinity says her favorite tradition is Raider Homecoming because she really enjoys the pep rallies.

“Everybody just really gets into it,” she says.

Aubrey also likes the alma mater tradition.

“It’s just a really good and traditional way to wrap up the game. I remember doing it after our last home football game and thinking I’ll never get do to it from here again and I got a little emotional. I just don’t think there’s any other local high school tradition like it.”

Cheerleading is a sport

Cheerleaders aren’t just pretty faces in fun clothes. Cheerleading is a recognized sport that requires weight training, calisthenics, practice, and a willingness to spend endless hours perfecting routines. Stunting involves strength, precise timing, dexterity and the ability to follow a rulebook that rivals the TSSAA football guidelines. Cheerleaders compete against other teams. In fact, the NCAA hosts a Cheerleading National Championship each April. And one need only watch the MCHS squad’s two tumblers, Haley Harper and Allie, fly end-to-end across the MCHS Gym floor to know there’s athleticism involved.

When we ask if they ever run into people who don’t realize how hard cheerleaders work, they answer in unison: All the time.

“We weight train over the summer and practice our routines over and over and over,” Aubrey says. “I feel you have to have just as much of a teamwork mentality to cheer as you do to play a sport. It’s 15 people doing synchronized moves. That’s not easy.”

“I feel like a lot of people don’t understand the strain it puts on our bodies too,” Allie adds. “Sometime I’ll complain the day after a game that my wrists hurt and someone will ask, from what? Well, I just tumbled end-to-end like 10 times using nothing but my body strength. I don’t think people understand that it’s not just standing around clapping and smiling.”

Trinity, who actually suffered a shoulder injury during her career, says people don’t realize that injuries like hers require surgery and hours of physical therapy.

“I’ve done extra things like physical therapy for four years to try and stay healthy,” she says. “Anytime I went to school with a sling on or on crutches, it felt like it was a huge deal for other people. They really didn’t seem to understand how a cheerleader could suffer a serious injury just like a football or basketball player.”

All three say their coaches, Jana Brown and Danielle Smith, help take the girls’ ideas and form them into a reality as well as encourage and counsel them both on and off the field.

Preparing for the final hoorah

Both the Raiders and Raiderettes will launch postseason play this week and that means these three know their final game in a Raider cheerleading uniform could happen soon. They all get a bit emotional talking about it.

“I’m really glad we’ll be together because I know I’m gonna get emotional,” Aubrey says. “We’ve cheered together for so long. Knowing we aren’t going to get to do it again is gonna be tough.”

“District tournament games are tough because you know your last game ever is coming up,” Trinity adds. “It will be the last time I get to cheer with my best friends. That’s tough.”

“I shed one tear at the last football game. I didn’t cry on Senior Night but I know I’m gonna be emotional at our last game,” Allie said. “It’s all coming to an end.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}

Categories: Local News

Tagged as: ,

Leave a Reply