| By Myra Bean
The South Panola cheerleading squad is still basking in its accomplishment as a nationally ranked cheerleading squad.
In February, the Tiger squad participated in the UCA National Competition and placed fifth in the nation.
Following that feat, tryouts were held for the upcoming squad. Named as captain is senior Allie Ware and as co-captains are Kristin Greeslin and Bianca Smith.
Each of the captains sat down for interviews recently and spoke of being a cheerleader on the South Panola squad.
Ware said she has been cheering for a long time. When she was younger, she cheered at the Grove in Oxford and has always competed.
It has only been within the last seven years that South Panola has become a competitive squad. In that time they have enjoyed rankings of No. 10 and No. 9.
The main difference in the competition squad and the regular cheering squad to Ware is putting in more work and practice. Her job as captain is to lead the rest of the squad in exercises or giving encouraging advice.
She did not expect to be named captain, but had hoped the honor would be hers.
Ware said when she was younger she always wanted to be a cheerleader.
"It’s funny to think now I am where I was looking up," Ware said. "Then at football games, it is one of my favorites. You see all these boys in class and now they are out there beating all these folks up."
Her advice to girls who want to be cheerleaders in the future is to be confident.
"If you go out there and not be confident in what you are doing, it will show," she said. "Even if you aren’t, just act it."
Her parents are Don and Alecia Ware and her twin brother is Jon Michael Ware, captain of the North Delta football team.
Geeslin said she had wanted to be a cheerleader since she was a little girl. She likes the competitive part of cheerleading.
"Competition’s one of my favorite things because you have all of the adrenaline going," Geeslin said. "The practice is really hard and sometimes you get worn out from all the practicing."
She did not make the squad in her sixth grade year, but she tried again and made it in her seventh grade year. She did not expect to be named co-captain.
"I was really excited," she said. "I have always tried to be a leader."
The co-captain’s job, according to Geeslin, is like the captain’s in that they encourage everyone and make sure everybody’s doing what they are supposed to do.
Geeslin said when she heard the squad’s ranking at national she was real excited.
"It was really exciting that we had come that far since I started," she said.
South Panola started competitive cheerleading her first year.
"It was pretty hard to believe," she said. "Years before we had done well but never that well. We were sitting there waiting and they were calling 18 and down. Then we kept waiting to hear our name and then we finally heard it."
It takes a lot of hard work to be a South Panola cheerleader, Geeslin said.
"You really have to love it to stay in it," she said. "It’s real exciting and the coaches really care about you. That’s one thing I really love about being a South Panola cheerleader. I know that my coaches care about what they are doing. The way we have excelled over the year is really exciting, too."
Geeslin is the daughter of Melissa and Jeff McDaniel of Batesville and Brian Geeslin of Coldwater. She has two younger brothers, 12 and 13 years old. Her grandparents are Bill and Glenda Meredith of Senatobia.
Smith said for anyone planning to be a South Panola cheerleader plan for some hard work.
She does not mind the hard work and that work ethic earned her a position as co-captain, which she never thought she would be.
"When I started out I couldn’t do a cartwheel," she admitted. "My cartwheels looked horrible. I couldn’t cheer. I couldn’t do anything. It never crossed my mind. I wanted it but I never thought I’d get it."
In competitive cheerleading, the members have to be a lot more dedicated, Smith said.
"If you are not dedicated, you are not going to do it," she said. "You are not going to give it all you’ve got. It is a lot harder, a lot more stress, a lot more get up and go to do it, a lot more than standing on the sidelines cheering for your team – which I love – but I would rather compete."
Smith said she had wanted to be a cheerleader "forever" since she started in kiddie camp when she was five years old.
As a co-captain, Smith said she has to stay encouraged even when some things do not come together as the squad hopes.
"You get so frustrated," she said. "You can’t let it show for all the other girls, but you are just like uhhhh. It’s hard to keep everybody’s spirits up when yours might be down, but you still have to do it, still have to push. Keep thinking I’m a leader and I have to do this for my girls."
Smith described her feelings when it was announced they were the No. 5 squad in the nation.
"It was one of the greatest feelings in the world to know you came from a squad for the first time ever making the finals," she said. "It was overwhelming and it was the best feeling. You just can’t explain it. It felt so good. Tears, they were happy tears. It was just great.
"Thousands of hours of practices, blood, sweat and tears, like Miss Tammy (Wilkinson) said, it all came together and it was just worth it," Smith continued. "Everything we do here is worth it. We get tired of it and we want to give up so much, but once you get there and you feel the way it feels at nationals, it’s all worth it, every second."
Wilkinson is "a great coach," according to Smith.
"She is one of the best coaches there is," Smith added. "She is very dedicated and she loves us so much. You can just tell. Everything she does is about us.
"For us to know that she loves us and she loves our sport, it helps a lot," she continued. "If she didn’t care, we might not care. She cares so much. She uplifts our spirits and keeps us happy."
Smith is the daughter of Dawn and Davey Smith. She has one brother Austin, 12, and her grandmother is Jean Smith of Batesville.