Poplarville cheerleaders stick together

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Just as the rain began to pour, Poplarville High School’s cheerleaders began their set up routine in the gym.

First on the list was to roll out the heavy, padded mats that the athletes use as a cushion between them and the hardwood floor during tumbling exercises.

Then came the stretches.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The 15-girl squad spread out on the mats with sufficient room between them before starting a series of stretches and agility exercises.

A short warm up followed the stretches, with the athletes split into four lines before running through numerous jumps, rolls, and spins.

Eventually it was time for the arduous part of practice.

The athletes went through drill after drill, supporting each other and perfecting their techniques. This was all taking place as Coach Rebekah Mayfield looked on, shouting encouragement to her athletes.

“I always tell the girls, it’s not about winning, it’s about working as a team and they have truly embraced that,” Mayfield said.

“They’re like a sisterhood, and we do things outside of cheer to keep us all close.”

Mayfield is going into her second year in charge of the program, and during her first season the squad performed well, making it to state and placing 5th out 11 squads.

For Mayfield the importance of cheer goes beyond just learning certain techniques.

She’s had two daughters go through the program, with one of them graduating just last year. Seeing the seniors on the squad leave at the end of the year is going to be hard, she said.

“The spirit and heart in this team is incredible,” Mayfield said.

“This year is going to be really hard because I have six seniors, and I’ve been with them from the beginning because of my daughter.”

That spirit is also reflected in the unit’s collective work ethic. Not only are the athletes learning choreography and routines, but also have to fundraise to offset the costs of camps, uniforms and other expenses. The squad helps host the Homecoming dance, and also puts on a cheer camp for children. During the camp the athletes teach the youngsters a specific routine.

Then at the next home game’s halftime show the little Hornets perform on the field with the varsity squad. All of these responsibilities for the athletes are a reflection of the expectations that come with being a Poplarville Hornet cheerleader.

Mayfield wants the athletes to be leaders, and set an example for their classmates.

“I do have high expectations for them and they know that,” Mayfield said. “But really I don’t have to say anything because they want it themselves. I just support them and am positive with them.”