Lady Eagles fly, cheer!

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Ashten Rary can fly like an Eagle.

She just needs a bit of help from her teammates.

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The John Yeates Middle School student, 10, is one of over 100 Southeastern Hampton Roads girls who spend every Tuesday evening in the Tidewater Community College (TCC) Portsmouth campus gym sharpening their flying, springing, tucking, and basing skills as members of the Eat, Sleep, Cheer (ESC) Eagles cheerleading squad. Practice starts at 6:30 p.m.

Ashten is one of the Lady Eagles that probably gets the closest to the team’s soaring namesake; one of the smallest on the squad, she often finds herself hurled skyward by her teammates, who are always there to catch the youngster upon her return.

&uot;I’m glad I’m small, because I get to be tossed around,&uot; Ashten says. &uot;It’s really, really fun to go high in the air.

&uot;Sometimes I’m scared when we’re learning new stunts, but once we learn it, it’s OK,&uot; she continues. &uot;We usually learn stunts in half a practice. I might fall sometimes, but if I do, the coaches always tell me to keep trying.&uot;

The Eagles first took flight in the TCC gym back in late 1999. &uot;We had a goal,&uot; says Annette Nelms, who started the team along with Stacy Carpenter. &uot;I had coached cheering in Pop Warner football for years and years, but the kids wanted more, and Stacy and I wanted more.&uot;

After starting out with roughly 20 girls, the team now has nearly 110. &uot;We do between five and seven tournaments a season,&uot; says Nelms (the season runs from July to April). &uot;We’ve brought in more than 40 trophies.&uot;

Fees for the team are among the lowest in the area at $50 per month, and there’s a special reason for them to be that high; in early September, the Eagles will get their own gym at 6211 Portsmouth Boulevard, near Chesapeake Square Mall. That’s just in time for their first competition of the new season at the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, where the junior and senior Lady Eagles won first place in their respective divisions last year (the senior team is made up of girls in 12th grade and under, the juniors in 6th and under, and the pee-wees the youngest of all).

After Ashten gets tossed into the air, it’s up to people like Jamie Hughes to snare her as she comes down. Jamie, a student at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, is a back, the most painful job on the team. Need proof? Just check out her arms.

&uot;When banana rot, they get all bruised and ugly,&uot; says the 12-year-old. &uot;Last year, my teammates called me ‘Banana Arms,’ because I was so bruised up! When the flyers land on you, you can really get hurt, especially if their elbows hit your arms.&uot;

But getting hurt is just one of the trials that Lady Eagles like Jenny Linder, 13, are ready to defy. &uot;Cheerleading is really fun and challenging,&uot; says the Forest Glen Middle School student. &uot;There’s a lot that I still have to learn, but I think that we’ll do really good this year, because we have a lot of returners, and we’re going to learn a lot of harder stunts.&uot;

For details on joining, contact Nelms at 484-7898.