LaFayette’s cheer program has seen a plethora of growth over the past year

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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LaFayette’s cheerleading program has been on the course of improvement over the past year, and that culminated over the weekend as the Bulldogs competed in the UCA cheer camp. 

Melissa Carter is heading into her second year as LaFayette’s cheerleading coach and the program has seen tremendous growth over the past year. The UCA cheer camp was proof of that as the Bulldogs took home several individual awards, fourth place in camp dance, third in camp cheer, the superior improvement trophy and all superior evaluations. 

The program was bare bones when Carter took over. Most of the girls did not know how to tumble or do some of the basics. 

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“I think we really solidified a lot of the basic skills that I’ve been trying to work with them on at home,” Carter said. “Last year, we went in as a team that could barely do anything. A lot of the staff remembered us and they were admiring the fact that we had improved as much as we did.” 

“We barely could stunt at all, and this year we were doing some pretty advanced stunts,” Carter added. “We literally started from the ground last year.” 

Carter’s love for cheer came at an early age as she started competing as soon as she could walk. Carter later cheered at Chambers Academy and was coached by her sister during her senior year. 

“It’s kind of been in us our whole lives,” Carter said. “I coached pee wee cheer before I moved into the high school position.” 

Carter has worked over the past year to give LaFayette’s cheerleaders a love for the sport while also instilling them with the fundamentals. 

The workout program for LaFayette has changed drastically during Carter’s tenure. The Bulldogs began working through a summer workout program right after tryouts wrapped up with all the new acquisitions having to adjust to the higher intensity. 

“I’ve tried to really make sure that they understand that cheer is more than just putting on a uniform and being cute,” Carter said. “I’m trying to make them understand that it is a sport and they can compete if they take it seriously. I think they kind of got an insight to that they are good enough to compete if they work hard enough at it.” 

Carter has dealt with a myriad of challenges during her first year and change as LaFayette’s cheerleading coach, but she has also had help along the way.
The cheerleading co-captains, Jeleah Carwell and Maurkenzia Brooks have helped elevate the program. Madison Fuzzell served as the captain last year and retained the position leading into next season. Fuzzell has acted as the leader of LaFayette’s squad. 

“My captain has done a great job,” Carter said. “She’s been my captain both years, so obviously the girls thought she did a good enough job the year before. She’s done a good job leading the girls and pushing them even though it’s basically brand new to her.” 

Several individuals stood out over the weekend with LaJada McCullough being a UCA pin-it-forward recipient and being named All-American for the second straight year. Julian Roberts is a newcomer to the team that made a name for himself over the weekend. 

Roberts is just a rising sixth grader and won the Superior Mascot Trophy and the mascot jump-off. Carter had never coached a mascot before, but she saw Roberts come out of his shell at the UCA camp. 

“When I was at Chambers, we didn’t even have a mascot, so mascot is all brand new to me,” Carter said. “Our mascot is actually an upcoming sixth grader, and he did phenomenal.” 

The success at the UCA camp has Carter ready to schedule more competitions later this year, with hopes of winning the whole thing next time. 

“I was just happy that we placed honestly,” Carter said. “Last year at camp, we didn’t place at all. I think we were the only team that walked away with nothing. I was very pleased that we did place, obviously we did want to place higher.”