GRAPEVINE — The Van Alstyne High School Panther Cheer Program is looking fierce after the squad brought home awards and recognitions at the annual National Cheerleading Association Camp held over four days at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Resort starting June 26.

The Panther cheer squad competed with dozens of cheer squads representing region schools attend the annual camp to improve skills and gain a competitive edge the next season by learning to the University Interscholastic League and National Cheer Association standards and regulations.

The cheerleaders representing Van Alstyne High School competed for individual awards and recognitions while at the NCA camp.

Lauren DeLuna highlighted the camp for the Panther Cheer Program when she earned the Captain’s Leadership Award. The honor is awarded to just one captain throughout the duration of camp. Deluna so impressed the judges at camp she was asked by the NCA to try out for a chance to join the NCA staff after graduation.

The junior varsity Panther cheer squad earned the NCA Technical Excellence Certificate for Motions and Technique, ribbons for excellence in cheer after an NCA evaluation and ribbons for superior excellence in all areas during NCA evaluations for the chant portion of the evaluation. The Lady Panther JV Cheer squad was awarded the spirit stick on four days of the camp. For those who may be unaware, the awarding of spirit sticks is a time-honored tradition at cheer camps. Every evening cheer squads would have the chance to be awarded a spirit stick — a decorated baton that serves as a totem awarded to squads that show team spirit.

The VAHS Varsity Panther Cheer Squad earned the NCA Technical Excellence Award for Spirit and Enthusiasm and Motions and Technique. The varsity squad members earned superior ribbons that are awarded by the NCA for excellence in all areas during official evaluation and awarded the spirit stick for three days of the camp.

According to NCA standards the All-America Nominees are outstanding individuals who display strength in motions, jumps, stunts, tumbling, dance and leadership. A camp participant must be nominated for the All-American team to qualify for the All-American Team tryouts.

VAHS Panther Cheer mascot Brooke Bramer received the award for Overall Best Mascot out of all the schools represented. Junior Varsity mascot Kim Bramer and Brooke Bramer were both awarded places on the 2017 NCA All-American Cheerleading Team.

“While the cheerleaders are in classes, the mascots attend workshops that teach them how to help increase school spirit and provide a supportive role to the cheerleaders,” head cheer coach Melissa Reid said of the mascots’s days at the camp.

While at NCA camp, the mascots would work to perform spirited entrances with their cheer team and pantomime skits for everyone at camp. The mascots from all the schools would then be evaluated by the National Cheer Association Mascot instructor for each of their presentations.

Varsity squad members DeLuna, Emma Morgan, Ashton Swift, Dakota Kern and Tatum Hunt with junior varsity members Alex Hill, Makenna Dancer, Alyssa Connor, and Aly Loftice were nominated for the National Cheer Association All-American Team.

“The girls start working during the summer getting ready for the new season,” Reid said. “After we are finished with camp we have a very short break before our two-a-days in July.”

The cheer program will spend five days learning new routines, cheers, chants and stunts that will be used for the 2017-2018 school year.

As the school year begins to start in the early days of August the VAHS Panther Cheer program plans to hit the ground running by helping their fellow students keep cool and promoting school spirit.

“When two-a-days begin we are providing popsicles to the various sports and band,” Reid said. “This past year and the year before, we did ice baths for football three days a week.”

The squad will begin working on the traditional cheer squad signage to adorn the halls of Van Alstyne High School to welcome new and returning students in August.

“We begin making signs, organizing pep rallies, and many other things to get ready for the year,” Reid said. “Our cheer camp starts our summer off. We also have two-a-days during the summer and paint signs to get ready for the new year.”

Reid said the cheer program will ramp up its preparation for the upcoming season in August.

“Once August starts we perform at freshman camp,” she said, adding the VAHS cheer squad will welcome seven freshman members on its JV squad this season.

A coach with high goals

Reid has been a Panther coach for Van Alstyne Independent School District for all seven years of her coaching career.

“I am starting my seventh year with the VA Cheer Program,” she said. “I did two years as middle school coach, two years as JV and middle school coach.”

Reid hit the ground running after assuming head coaching responsibilities.

“I took over as varsity coach my last year, and the past two years I have been the varsity coach,” she said. “I will be starting my third year as varsity coach.”

The squad is looking to compete on the state level in the University Interscholastic League this upcoming season,

“We did not compete this last year but did compete the year before at the UIL Competition,” Reid said. “We plan on competing this year in UIL.”

The squad will be relying on the experience of its leaders on the senior squad to see them through tough rival UIL competition, she added.

“I have six returning seniors,” Reid said of the Panthers Cheer Program varsity squad. “Our varsity squad consists of six seniors, and one is a mascot, five juniors, and five sophomores.”

Reid said the VAHS Cheer program’s goals are not just to compete for titles.

“We hope to raise spirit and school pride not only at the school but in the town as well,” she said. “We would love to see the town decked out every Friday night in blue and white.”

Reid said she wants her squad to know that they are always representing their school and community, whether they don Van Alstyne’s blue and white.

“We hope to set an example of good behavior and sportsmanship at all times, whether in uniform or not,” Reid said.