Troup cheerleaders in exclusive company

Published 11:28 am Friday, July 13, 2018

They’re in select company.

Each year, the Georgia Cheerleading Coaches’ Association picks a cheerleader of the year.

Hundreds of cheerleaders from across the state were nominated for the honor, and 41of them made it through to the next stage of the process.

Those cheerleaders will get together in Columbus on Aug. 4 for a competition, after which the top 16 will be announced.

Then at the state competition in November, the GCCA will reveal its cheerleader of the year, and the winner will also receive scholarship money.

A pair of Troup cheerleaders, Riley Ferguson and Caroline Blanks, are among the 41 finalists.

Ferguson and Blanks had to meet certain academic requirements to be eligible, and they each submitted an essay and filled out an application listing their accomplishments.

On Aug. 4, Blanks and Ferguson will each perform an individual routine that includes jumps, tumbling and stunts, and there will also be an interview session.

Troup coach Amelia Key said both of the cheerleaders are deserving of the honor.

“As young ladies and athletes and representatives of program, you really can’t ask for more dedicated and hard-working kids,” Key said.

Ferguson and Blanks are life-long friends and teammates, and they’re glad to share this experience with each other.

“I really enjoy going through this process with her,” Ferguson said. “Me and her have been doing cheerleading together ever since we were little. And I’m just so excited to do this with her. I’m glad we’ll be able to represent Troup.”

Blanks, who was on a beach trip when she found out she made the cut, said “if (Ferguson) won I’d be so happy for her, and if I got it she’d be the same way. It’s a team thing. We’re with each other, and we’re supporting each other no matter what.”

Blanks and Ferguson are usually on the floor with their teammates for a competition, so this experience will be a little different since they’ll be flying solo.

“It’s pressure, but she’s done solo dance, and I’ve done theater,” Ferguson said. “So each of us has a little bit of a background in individualized (activities).”

Each competitor gets to choose her own song, and she performs a routine that can’t be longer than two minutes.

“It’s just like a cheer competition, you just don’t have 15 of your closest friends on the floor with you,” Ferguson said. “You get to really show your personality.”

Ferguson added that her song “fits my personality, and helps me be more comfortable.”

When the competition cheerleading season begins this fall, Blanks and Ferguson will be a part of a team with high expectations.

Troup is coming off back-to-back top-five finishes in the state competition, and this team could be poised to compete for a championship.

“We’ve made a name for ourselves in cheerleading,” Blanks said. “When we come, teams know who we are. So it’s important to live up to the standards. It’s our last year. You just hope and pray that your best is good enough.”

Ferguson said a key to success in competition cheerleading is focusing on yourself, and not the opponent.

“One thing we’ve always kept in mind is just stay true to yourself,” Ferguson said. “You can’t worry about what everyone else does. You can only give your best, and take it on the floor and hope it’s good enough.”

Both of them would obviously love to exit the stage by bringing a state championship to Troup.

“It’s our last year,” Blanks said. “You just hope and pray that your best is good enough.”

Ferguson said the team will do its best, and “you just leave it in God’s hands.”

Troup did lose some key seniors from last season’s team, but there are some talented newcomers ready to take their place.

“We have really good freshmen,” Ferguson said. “We lost a lot of flyers last year, but these freshmen that are coming in have stepped up.”

Blanks said something she, Ferguson, and all of the team members have in common is a long-time commitment to the sport.

“It’s not something where you can wake up one morning and say I’m going to be a cheerleader,” Blanks said. “You have to start when you’re young. We started when we were 5 and 6-years-old. We’ve cheered on the same team ever since. Everybody on our team, we started when we were very young.”