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Cheerleaders shining in Panther Blue

By Griff Servati
For the Van Alstyne Leader

   For Van Alstyne High School Cheer Captain Alex Hill, she could not imagine cheerleading without a time on the center of the field at halftime, "What I love most is looking into the stands at halftime while performing, feeling the support from our town."

McKenna Dancer, Alex Hill, Tatum Hartsfield and Chloe Morgan

    Amazingly, for a group of student-athletes that is in the "spot-light," cheerleaders never seem to get the credit they deserve for their hard work, skill, and athleticism they display. Alex Hill spoke of the work that goes in during the week, "a lot of hard work goes into preparing for Friday nights. From cheers to painting signs and decorating the school to dances and stunts." If you drive by the old bus barn on Spence road in the late afternoon, you will see the team putting in their time in the converted practice facility. They are there at least two nights a week to practice two to three hours into the evening after a school day is complete. 

    On the Varsity cheer squad this season is four seniors; Makenna Dancer, Alex Hill, Tatum Hartsfield, and Chloe Morgan. For these senior cheerleaders, the opportunity to cheer on the panthers started young. All four of the senior cheerleaders started in peewee, cheered throughout middle school and into high school. They know the power of influence and looking up to the girls with the pom-poms because that was them just a few years ago. Tatum Hartsfield shared about the role that she takes very seriously, "I love representing the school and being a role model for younger girls who strive to be a cheerleader one day. It's very heartwarming to see the little girls admire me and say they want to be a cheerleader just like me in the future." 

    When asked about a memory that she will cherish from the times of being a cheerleader, Alex Hill connected childhood to her high school experience, "the homecoming community pep rallies when the entire Van Alstyne cheer program comes together from pee-wee to varsity to cheer, 'Hey all you panther fans' This is also one of my favorite childhood memories as well. Cheering with varsity girls at the homecoming game when I was in 1st grade!" 

    These girls shine in other areas outside of cheering on other panthers. One person you will notice on the field for the entirety during halftime is McKenna Dancer; as soon as the cheer is finished, she heads back out as a flutist in the marching band. The time commitment to be in cheer and band in the fall is genuinely remarkable. In the spring, Alex Hill is on the golf team, and Tatum Hartsfield is one of the fastest girls in the area in the 400m run. Chloe Morgan is an award-winning baker; her cupcakes are some of the best in Texas as she has won at state competitions through the VAHS FCCLA. 

The love for the community and the school is very evident in these four.  Chloe Morgan shared, "I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a group of people that has such a strong passion for the Panthers. I hope that people can see the excitement I have at every game and the school spirit within every event I have had the opportunity to cheer at." We noticed Chloe, and I can't help but think of all the little girls out there who saw even more. 

Alexandria Hill 

Alex Hill

Parents: Arlon and Catherine Hill

When did you start cheerleading?

I started as a panther cheerleader in the 1st grade!  

What is one thing you wish others knew about cheerleading? 

The hard work, time, and dedication put into our practices throughout the week for games. 

What teacher in your school years had the most significant impact on your life and why?

Mrs.Reid has impacted me the most with absolutely no doubt. Since my 6th grade year tryout for cheer for the first time, she helped me gain confidence in who I became today. Mrs. Reid is kind, courageous, and such an inspirational person. She has spent countless hours of hard work and dedication to this program, that we as a team are so thankful for. This program would not be where it is today without her! 

What role has your parents played in pushing and encouraging you in cheerleading? 

My parents have always encouraged me always to do what I love and work hard at whatever it is. Cheer is what I love, so I have continued to try to work hard in cheer. 

Who are your biggest fans beyond your parents?

Other than my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. My biggest fans are the little pee wee cheerleaders in this town, always line up at the fence calling my name down at the track. 

What are your plans for next year? School, major?

I plan to attend Tarleton State University to major in Nursing. 

Anything else you want to mention about your time as a Panther cheerleader?

This program has shaped me into the young lady I am today. It has taught me patience and discipline and deepened my love for this sweet small town I'm proud to call home. 

Alex Hill

McKenna Dancer

McKenna Dancer

Parents: Brent and Diane Dancer.

When did you start cheerleading?

I cheered for VASA throughout elementary school, but I started cheering for the school in 7th grade.

What was your most significant memory from cheering in high school?

My favorite memory was cheer camp at Tarleton for my junior year! It was fun to be able to stay in the dorms and bond with everyone.

What do you love the most about cheerleading?

I love performing- both on the sidelines and at halftime. 

What is one thing you wish others knew about cheerleading? 

I wish people knew that there is a lot of behind the scenes practice that goes on to make Friday nights happen.

What teacher in your school years had the most significant impact on your life and why?

Mrs. Burkhalter has made the most significant impact on me because I admire how she goes out of her way to be friendly and upbeat for all of her students. I respect the fact that she tries to be positive to everyone, even when they are not necessarily the most positive towards her.

How do you personally make academics a priority while competing?

I try to manage my time efficiently and keep on top of deadlines.

What role has your parents played in pushing and encouraging you in cheerleading?

My parents have always encouraged me in just about everything I have tried to do, and I am so thankful for that. 

Who are your biggest fans beyond your parents?

My grandparents and my aunts are my biggest supporters beyond my parents.

What are your plans for next year? School, major?

I plan to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in biology.

Anything else you want to mention about your time as a Panther Cheerleader?

I want to thank Mrs. Reid and Mrs. Hill for their time dedicated to me and the Van Alstyne cheer program!

McKenna Dancer

Tatum Hartsfield

Tatum Hartsfield

Shanna Hartsfield and John Hartsfield.

When did you start cheerleading?

I started cheerleading when I was three years old, so I have been cheerleading for 14 years. 

What was your most significant memory from cheering in high school?

My favorite memory was the UIL cheer competition in my junior year! Being able to stay in a hotel, bond, have fun with all my teammates was an unforgettable experience. 

What do you love the most about cheerleading?

I love representing the school and being a role model for younger girls who strive to be a cheerleader one day. It's very heartwarming to see the little girls admire me and say they want to be a cheerleader just like me in the future. 

What is one thing you wish others knew about cheerleading?

I wish people understood that cheerleading is more than just shaking your pom-poms and smiling. There's a lot of hard work that goes into halftime performances, stunting, and all of our dances. 

What teacher in your school years had the most significant impact on your life and why?

Mrs. Endicott has had the most significant impact on my life because she taught me a lot about myself and the world around me. She was always so funny, confident, and candid. Our insightful talks in class made me see the world from a new point of view. Although her class was demanding, I wouldn't trade it for anything as it allowed me to shift from a naive little girl to the mature and aware young woman I am today. 

How do you personally make academics a priority while competing?

Academics are always the top priority. I try to use my time wisely and give 100% effort on every assignment. 

What other extra curricular activities are you involved in?

I am involved in competitive cheer at Cheer Athletics, varsity track, NHS, and student council. 

What role has your parents played in pushing and encouraging you in cheerleading? What are your parents' names?

My parents have always been my no. 1 supporters in cheerleading. They push me to do my best at all times. I have a goal of becoming a college cheerleader in the future, and my parents take me to college clinics, tumbling classes, and stunt lessons to help me achieve that goal.

Who are your biggest fans beyond your parents?

My Nanny, Poppy, and Paw Paw are my biggest fans beyond my parents. They always try to make every game that I cheer at. I am so thankful for them and all their consistent support throughout the years. 

What are your plans for next year? School, major?

I plan to attend the University of Oklahoma and major in marketing. 

Anything else you want to mention about your time as a Panther Cheerleader?

I want to thank Mrs. Reid and Mrs. Hill for making my few years as a Panther Cheerleader the absolute best. I also want to thank all my amazing teammates for making every practice, bus ride, and game so exciting and fun! These have been the most unforgettable years of my life, and I will cherish the memories forever. 

Tatum Hartsfield

Chloe Morgan 

Chloe Morgan

Parents Brian and Jennifer Morgan

When did you start cheerleading?

I was also a pee wee cheerleader in elementary school.

What was your most significant memory from cheering in high school?

My favorite memory from cheering in high school was cheering at my junior year's first playoff game. I loved seeing everyone so excited to watch our panthers take on a win and move onto the next round.

What do you love the most about cheerleading?

I love most about cheerleading as a role model for all peewee cheerleaders or little girls in the stands on Friday night.

What is one thing you wish others knew about cheerleading?

I would love for others to know about how much work we put into every school event to bring spirit to the school and cheer on all of our teams. From making signs to learning dances and coming up with themes, VAHS Cheer has always put school spirit first.

What teacher in your school years had the most significant impact on your life, and why?

Coach Land has had the most significant impact on me because he taught me how to show up and do my best, even in bad circumstances. I had Coach Land twice throughout school, once in 7th grade, and again in 10th. Coach Land is someone who supports his students throughout his class and in any other activities.

How do you personally make academics a priority while competing?

I choose to put academics; first I spend a lot of my free time preparing for tests and doing homework. My grades are important to me, and I know I have to make good grades. 

What other extra curricular activities are you involved in?

I am involved in the Family, Careers, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club, National Honor Society, First Baptist Church Student Ministry, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

What role has your parents played in pushing and encouraging you in cheerleading? 

My parents have been a big encouragement in cheerleading. They always push me to do my best and keep a smile on my face, even if I mess up. My parents help me be a leader and show respect to others, no matter my team's position.

Who are your biggest fans beyond your parents?

My biggest fans outside of family are my student pastor and his family; Jace, Lexie, Andie Kate, and Elle Rose Williamson.

What are your plans for next year? School, major?

I hope to attend Texas A&M University, majoring in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences.

Anything else you want to mention about your time as a Panther Cheerleader?

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a group of people with such a strong passion for the Panthers. I hope that people can see the excitement I have at every game and the school spirit within every event I have had the opportunity to cheer at.

Chloe Morgan