River’s newest ‘Cheering Queen’!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 12, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Last October, Maia Jones sat on the sidelines of the Nansemond River (NR) High School Homecoming football game. The captain of Jones’ cheerleading team, Brynn Portafe, was a member of the Homecoming court, and Jones and the rest of the team had helped her campaign.

Their preparation worked; Portafe’s name was called as the 2002 Homecoming Queen, sending her team of cheerers into hysterics. &uot;I could tell that she was having a blast,&uot; Jones recalls. &uot;It looked like a great way to start your senior year.&uot;

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In late September, she took the first step toward getting the same boost. The Monday before Homecoming, Jones and the rest of the potential Lady Warriors of Royalty handed in their essays describing why they would make the finest Queens. &uot;It was the hardest thing I ever had to write,&uot; she recalls. The essay forbade participants from referring to their past accomplishments. &uot;I said that I would try to help anyone who needed it, and that I loved volunteer work.&uot;

In the past, she’s given her time to the Junior Olympics, the Goober Gang cleanup and coordination committee of the 2002 Peanut Fest, and helps coach three Bennett’s Creek Pop Warner football cheerleading teams (Jones got her start cheering for Bennett’s Creek in eighth grade). Jones also manages the NR baseball team, and is a past participant on the dance team.

Of course, perhaps her greatest individual accomplishment has been on the cheering squad. &uot;In the past, it seemed like there were some bad captains,&uot; she says. &uot;There were girls that didn’t really care about leading the team; they just wanted to wear the patch on their uniform that says ‘Captain’ and carry the microphone.&uot; She makes sure to point out, however, that Portafe was an outstanding captain.

When she began her third year as a member of the varsity cheering squad earlier this year, Jones had to learn, she estimates, &uot;about 150 cheers and a ton of stunts and dance moves.&uot; She ascertained enough; her coaches elected her the 2003 captain.

When voting began on Wednesday, Jones’ team standing came in handy. &uot;I brought a bunch of balloons and a HUGE bag of candy to give out,&uot; she laughs. &uot;I put a giant banner that said ‘Vote for Maia’ outside the cafeteria, and the rest of my team was carrying picket signs that said the same thing.&uot;

One carrier was senior Kendra Davis, also a three-year member of the squad. &uot;There were a lot of underclassmen that didn’t know Maia, so we gave out a bunch of signs that said, ‘Vote for Maia,’&uot; Davis says. &uot;We wanted her to win so bad, because she really, really deserved it.&uot;

Last Friday night, as her team cheered without her for the first time, Jones prepared to participate in the Homecoming Court. &uot;I was happy just to be there,&uot; she said of the Court. &uot;I went to talk to Brynn (who was on hand to usher in her successor), and I got so scared that I didn’t know what I’d gotten myself into.&uot; Throughout the first half, the remainder of the team had gotten the crowd behind their captain, repeatedly huddling and chanting, &uot;Good luck, Maia!&uot; and &uot;We love you, Maia!&uot;

As she was introduced as a participant, Jones ambled across the field. &uot;I was thinking, ‘I hope I don’t trip in these four-inch heels!’&uot; she recalls. &uot;It was so cold that I couldn’t feel my face.&uot;

Her ears still worked; they allowed her to hear the runner-up: Tiffany Porter. Then the loudspeaker boomed the words that she both couldn’t wait and didn’t want to hear: &uot;The 2003 Homecoming Queen, Miss…&uot;

&uot;I was terrified,&uot; Jones said. &uot;I could hear my heart beating. It felt like it took a year.&uot;

On the bench, Davis and the rest of the varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders awaited the announcement. &uot;We were all sitting there with our fingers crossed,&uot; Davis says. &uot;We’d all worked so hard.&uot;

Seconds later, their work paid off, as the winning moniker was spoken: &uot;Maia Jolynn Jones!&uot;

In the stands, Jones’ mother Dawn burst into tears, surrounding by cheering NR students and faculty. The cheerleading bench, just as it had for Portafe, exploded into screaming and impromptu dancing and acrobats. Jones howled, &uot;Yes!

&uot;I had a tear in my eye, but I couldn’t cry because I would mess up my makeup!&uot; she smiles. &uot;I felt like I was on cloud nine. It felt like a dream.&uot; Principal Thomas McLemore placed the crown on her head, and he and Jones took a royal walk down the line of cheerleaders, several of whom had done a hip-shifting victory dance for their champion captain.

&uot;Some of us were crying,&uot; says Davis. &uot;We’d all voted for her, and us just being there made it better.&uot;

Jones hopes to continue her cheering career at Christopher Newport University, Lynchburg College, or Oklahoma University. &uot;Cheerleading is addictive,&uot; she says. &uot;It gives you the biggest adrenaline rush.&uot;

So what has her new Queen-ship taught her? &uot;I wanted to be the captain of the cheerleading team, and I tried and tried until I made it. Then I wanted to be the Homecoming Queen, and I tried and tried until I made the goal. It just showed me that hard work and dedication pays off.&uot;