Northwood cheerleaders among the best in Ohio

Yaneek Smith

It’s been another year, and another impressive showing by the Northwood cheerleading squad.
        One of the top programs in Ohio, the Rangers, who have finished as the state runner-up four times in the decade, are coming off a third place finish this year, a sign of their strength and prowess.
        Northwood qualified for the state tournament after putting forth a good showing at regionals and lifted its game to the highest level when it counted most.
        Led by senior Isaiah Bolyard, there are 17 cheerleaders on the team.
        There are seven juniors — Sierra Braddock, Ellie Fritz, Isbella Guillen, Meagan Mahoney, Mikayla Miller, Jazmin Negrin and Kylee Peart; five sophomores — Breanna Herrera, Sadie North, Kayla Powell, Halannah Ramirez and Alivia Rohloff; and four freshmen — Hailey Apthorpe, Alyssa Cuevas, Emily Ronquillo and Emma Veres.
        Needless to say, the competition at these events can be fierce. A strong work ethic is necessary to succeed.
        "What a lot of people don't realize is that cheer (season) starts in May and doesn't conclude until March of the following year. At Northwood, you have to cheer during the winter season in order to be part of the competition team. Most of the athletes that cheer during the winter season and are part of the competition team do cheer in the fall season as well and use that time to start perfecting new skills," said longtime Northwood coach Naomi Smith.
        "In order to perfect a skill, you must perform countless repetitions, which is very taxing on the body. May to July is when they hit the weight room for conditioning and working on tumbling skills that they would like to master. 
        “August is when they really start focusing on getting game day ready for football season and they learn their competition routine. August to October has a main focus on game day material but they still work on their competition routine. Once November rolls around the focus starts to shift and they work more on their competition routine but they can't forget about the material they need to know for the basketball season,” Smith continues.
        “From November through March it seems like we spend more time with our teammates than we do with our families.  Between basketball games and competitions there is very little down time; however, several of them still manage to be part of the musical as well — which means they are at the school seven days a week from January to March.
        "I understand that some people may not recognize cheerleading as a sport because a human (judge) decides who wins. Cheer may not have a goal line to cross, a ball to put in a hoop, or a ball to kick into a goal, but you most definitely have to be an athlete to be a cheerleader. It is not easy to hold another human by their feet above your head and then catch them as they are spinning.  Cheerleaders are some of the hardest working athletes. We are very fortunate that our school system recognizes cheer as a sport. Cheerleaders can receive a varsity letter just like any other athlete at Northwood High School.
        “This year, four cheer teams were inducted into Northwood's Hall of Fame — the 2010 team that finished fourth at state, the '13 team that finished second at state, the '14 team that finished second at state and the '15 that finished second at state."
        Smith enjoyed a successful tenure as head coach of the Rangers, but she was recently replaced by one of her assistants, Ashley Fullenlove, who will get a chance to lead the program. She was instrumental to the team's success.
        "The program has been so successful because of the upperclassmen who help shape the underclassmen and let them know the expectations and that the team has big shoes to fill every year," Fullenlove said. "The team knows that they need to work hard to (remain) successful. We also have an amazing school, community and parents who help to support the team and the program. Each year the program continues to grow with success."
        Smith credited the school's feeder program.
        "Depending on who you asked, you would probably get a different response. I believe one of the reasons that the program has been so successful is because we have an awesome feeder program that has been going strong since 2004,” Smith said.
        “You can become a Little Ranger cheerleader in the third grade. Little Rangers are third through sixth grade and then you get an opportunity to be a junior high cheerleader in seventh and eighth grade. Another reason I think the program has been so successful is the support that we have received from our administrators, board of education, parents, students and community.
        “Each year the juniors and seniors step up and become the awesome leaders that they were taught to be by the juniors and seniors the previous year.  Our cheer program is not the only program that is successful though, it is just part of what Northwood is…’a Tradition of Excellence.’"


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