Athlete of the week: Mallie Crawford helped LaGrange cheer reach new heights in her senior season

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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Mallie Crawford embodies the Granger spirit. The LaGrange High senior was a member of the competitive and game-day cheer squads for the last four years.

“It has been an experience that I can’t even really explain,” Crawford said. “Being with the girls has been a joy, not even just in the school atmosphere. We really do stuff outside of school that really brought us together. We are like a family.”

It was in middle school that Crawford found cheer. She tried out for the Gardner Newman team in sixth grade and it was love at first sight. Crawford used her dancing background to make a seamless transition to the mats.

“I loved it right away and it was kind of a hidden talent because it was something that I never knew I had in me,” Crawford said. 

When Crawford made the leap from middle school to high school, she also had to deal with a position change. Once a high flyer, Crawford hit a grow spurt and naturally found herself as a back spot. 

Crawford has a bit more free time now that her LaGrange High cheer career has reached its end. Most weekdays in the fall she was at the school until 6:30 as she took part in both the game day and competitive cheer practices which ran back-to-back.

“School got out at 3:20 and I went to go to game day practice until 5 and then competitive cheer until 6:30,” she said. “I was in the cheer room pretty much all afternoon in the fall.”

In more ways than one, Crawford had to step up and be a leader for both the competitive and game-day cheer squad. She was unsure of her ability to be a leader for a team that was so senior-laden, but she found her confidence in large part due to coach Mitzi Norton, who instilled her with confidence and named her a team captain.

“Cheerleading has really helped me come out of my shell,” Crawford said. “I didn’t expect to be named a captain, but I was excited to be one of the leaders alongside five other amazing girls.

“There were always girls beside me that helped lead and boost me up no matter what I did.”

Her time on the mats and sidelines at LaGrange High has sadly come to an end, but she went out on her terms. Crawford knew the date of her last performance well beforehand. She went to the GHSA Game Day Cheer tournament on Dec. 8 knowing it would be her final time in the Granger blue and white.

“Going out there and competing like that for my last time was bittersweet,” Crawford said. “At first I felt excited, but then it started to hit me.”

The team ended up finishing fifth in the state in their first season as a program. It was one of the great honors of Crawford’s young life to help the team reach new heights.

“To be the first ones in school history to do this and finish top 5 is special,” Crawford said. “I really just wanted us to work hard and see how far we could make it because this year’s team was special.

“After we got done competing it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I knew that we put it all out there.”

Crawford is trading in one shade of blue for another in less than a year as she plans to attend Georgia Southern, where she plans to try out for the cheer team there.

“My goal is to go to college at Georgia Southern and possibly try out for the cheer team,” she said. “That is my next goal, so when the new year comes around I’m going to get into tumbling classes and work towards that goal.”