UK cheerleading squad chosen

By Erin Grigson

UK cheerleading tryouts occurred from April 19 to 22, creating two squads for next year’s season.

Head coach Jomo Thompson, along with a panel of judges and assistant coaches, narrowed down the original number of more than 70 applicants to the 48 students who will cheer next year.

“To steal a bit from (men’s basketball head) coach (John) Calipari, we set the gold standard for cheerleading. T. Lynn (Williamson) likes to refer to us as the Rolls Royce of cheerleading, so we only accept the best,” Thompson said.

Seniors in high school are trying to get on the selective team.

Veteran cheerleaders are trying to keep their spots, move up to the Blue Squad from the White Squad or keep their spots on the Blue Squad.

“I guess you could say it’s like a singing show, like ‘American Idol’ or something; just going out in front of the judges and putting on a show,” said Ashley Vennetti, a freshman White Squad member.

The stress can be overwhelming for the new recruits, Thompson said.

Some female cheerleaders said the memory of their first tryout at UK is a blackout because it was so traumatic.

“There’s nothing to compare it to, no way to prepare yourself for it other than to say it’s like the biggest competition of the year,” said Stephanie Johnson, a returning member of the Blue Squad.

For returning cheerleaders, the stress is more about knowing that what they’ll do and how well they do it will affect where they’ll be placed for the next year.

“The suspense is definitely the most nerve-racking thing,” said Ryan Heinrich, a Blue Squad junior. “Once you get out there, you have your teammates cheering you on and helping you out and it’s not near as bad.”

At around 8 p.m. Sunday, Thompson announced the cheerleaders who made each squad.

“It is really exciting to see new talent coming in because it keeps our program competitive in a good way. It makes everyone want to work hard and keeps the tradition going,” Vennetti said.