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Special ride for Troup seniors

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

Despite all the falls, the injuries, and the pain and discomfort she’s had to endure, Troup High’s Emma Harman has zero regrets.

Harman is a senior on the Troup competitive cheerleading team, and she and her teammates will compete in the Class AAAA state finals on Tuesday in Macon.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Harman, whose mother Amelia Key is the team’s head coach. “We’ve had to deal with quarantines every other week, but we’ve stuck with it.

We haven’t pulled out of a competition. We’ve turned into a family. They’re like my sisters.”

As for the physical toll the sport has taken on her, it has been significant.

“I’ve had a fractured ankle, I’ve sprained this one four times, my shoulder is messed up, but you have to push through it,” Harman said. “I love the sport, and my team has pushed me and motivated me through it all.”

Tuesday will be the end of the line for Harman and the team’s other two seniors, Emma Claire Doughman and Morgan Null.

It has been a typically successful season for Troup, which has won multiple competitions and finished third in last week’s state sectional in Vidalia to advance to the state finals.

There wasn’t a region competition this year, but Troup had the second-best score among the Region 2-AAAA teams at the state sectional.

“We knew what to do, our bodies knew what to do, so we went out there Saturday and gave it our all, and we were blessed to be region runner-ups,” said Harman.

Looking ahead to Tuesday, Harman said “all you can do is your best, no matter the place.”

There will be 16 teams competing in the state finals, and Troup will look to earn a place on the awards podium.

“It’s here, and I’m very excited,” Key said. “Everything I’ve worked for is what Tuesday is about to show, and hopefully everything goes well, and I believe in us.”

Competitive cheerleading season is usually a fall sport, but it was pushed back to the winter this school year because of COVID-19.

That has given the team members plenty of time to bond and get to know each other since practice began in the summer.

“This team, we’ve become so close over the nine months that we’ve been practicing,” said senior Morgan Null. “We’ve faced many challenges, but it’s definitely brought us closer as a team. We’re more than a team. We’re definitely a family.”

The Tigers delivered a strong routine at the state sectional, and they’ll look to keep it going next week.

“I’m excited,” Null said. “We’re ready to show how hard we’ve worked all season, and how it’s paid off.”

Null is a four-year member of the team, and it has been a memorable journey.

“We’ve gone to state all four of my years here, so that’s very exciting,” Null said. “We’re very blessed to be able to go to state all these years, and we want to continue to fight and build our team so we can to go state every year.”

Emma Claire Doughman is grateful that she has had a senior season, especially when she sees what has happened at other schools.

“It’s definitely been good to get out and compete, because other teams in other sports, and other counties, haven’t been able to,” Doughman said. “Their season got cut off. I’m glad we’ve been able to push through and get this far.”

Doughman is also appreciative that she’s been able to share her senior year with a group of teammates and friends that have grown to mean so much to her.

“We’ve been going for almost nine months. We’ve gotten real close,” Doughman said. “My sister (Ivy Jane Doughman) cheers with me, so that’s been real fun. Since we’ve been going so long, it feels like everyone else is my sister, because we’ve bonded so much.”

Doughman is ready to get on the mat on Tuesday and help Troup deliver a strong routine.

“We’ve been working so hard, and we’re ready to put all that hard work into our performance,” Doughman said.

Amelia Key, who has been Troup’s head coach for three decades, is grateful for the way the team members have handled everything during a challenging season.

“It had to be this group of kids, this season, to stay together,” Key said. “I hope they come out better people after all of this. Every day has been a challenge. How are we going to fix this? It’s been a constant challenge.”

Key believes the team is at its best right now, which is good news heading into the most important competition of the season.

“They peaked (in Vidalia),” Key said. “Part of it I think was the excitement that they finally had their whole team, and they knew this was our one shot to show everybody, and so that pumped them up.”

Because of quarantine procedures, the Tigers have rarely had everyone on the mat at the same time.

“We hadn’t seen it run with 16 people, so we had no idea what was going to happen, and they stepped up, and half of them came off the mat crying,” Key said. “It was just relief, and they were so excited, and they were hugging each other. They finally got to show off what they’ve been working for.”

TROUP TEAM MEMBERS: Haleigh Bonner, Zakiya Dicks, Emma Claire Doughman, Ivy Jane Doughman, Kyleigh Ellington, Mackenzy Gill, Catelyn Godfrey, Emma Harman, Madie Hester, Madison Lumpkin, Mary Joy Moosman, Morgan Null, Anna Purnell, Jalana Shepard, Summer Smith and Justiana Wilson.