- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Twelve years of cheerleading experience are paying off for rising Northern High School senior Sarah Watterson, who was chosen as a finalist for the 2012 National Cheerleader of the Year Scholarship Competition.
Though she was not ultimately selected as one of the two $1,250 scholarship recipients, Sarah, 17, was one of about 20 cheerleaders nationwide to be selected as a finalist on June 17.
According to a press release, the scholarship competition was part of a weeklong coach and cheerleader training called EDGE-U-Cation held on the campus of Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., by the company Cheer Ltd. Inc.
The scholarship could be used at any college or university, Sarah said.
Sarah said she applied in January by submitting a video showcasing a tumbling, jumping and dance routine.
Though she said she has cheered in competitive squads all over the county since she was 5 years old, her freshman year at Northern High School was the first time she ever cheered at football games.
“You have to be able to show it on your face to get the crowd involved,” Sarah said of game days. “In competitions you’re concentrating on doing your thing and smiling. ... Competitions are my thing.”
Sarah said she quickly made it to the second stage of the scholarship competition, which she said consisted of a brief phone interview where she said she spoke a little bit about her extracurricular involvement.
Stage three was the June 17 competition, which she said involved a photo shoot, two panel interviews and a final solo performance.
“It was kind of nerve wracking, to be honest,” she said, adding that the first panel with whom she interviewed “was so serious.”
“The second [interview panel ] was so hyper — there was candy all over the table,” she laughed. “I think I did pretty good. I was more focused on the experience of it. I learned a lot.”
Though she did not walk away with any scholarship money, Sarah said Cheer Ltd. did offer her a job as a counselor at its summer camp.
“I have to wait until next summer to do it because I’m not 18 yet,” she said.
Her mom, Gayle Watterson of Owings, has been supporting her every step of the way.
“I was incredibly proud of Sarah for making it to the finals. Her future looks bright and she’s got some great things from this,” Gayle Watterson said, adding that her daughter is “a great example that cheerleaders aren’t just superficial. She’s got depth to her.”
At school Sarah is involved in the Key, Patriot, Culture and Paws for a Cause clubs in addition to being a volunteer for Special Olympics.
Her former coach, Sara Duckett, said Sarah is just as well-rounded in her cheering abilities as a strong tumbler, jumper and dancer.
“She’s an all-around. ... It’s not often you get someone who has it all, and she does,” Duckett said, adding that Sara made the varsity squad her freshman year, which is very rare.
“She knows what she’s supposed to do and she does it well,” Duckett said.
Sarah said she is hoping to either attend Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., or follow in her sisters’ footsteps at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., next year.
“It’s definitely going to be hard to pick between those two,” she said, adding that there is one no-brainer when it comes to college.
“My friend and I are like ‘we won’t go to a college if we can’t make the cheer team,’” she said.