McKenzie JV cheer squad performs at Capitol One Bowl

Published 4:00 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

Twelve young ladies from south Butler County enjoyed the experience of a lifetime on New Year’s Day as they performed before a crowd of more than 75,000 people.

The McKenzie Tigers JV Cheerleading Squad was one of 84 squads from across the U.S. invited by the Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) to participate in a pre-game performance Saturday, January 1 at the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando.

McKenzie was one of just four squads from Alabama, including Wetumpka Varsity, Maplesville Varsity and Lawrence County Varsity, chosen to be a part of the event, and the only JV squad from the state.

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“For a group of young girls in a small school like ours to be selected was an honor, and it was really such a wonderful experience for all of us,” said their coach, Darlene Odom.

This “wonderful experience” required a lot of preparation before they ever arrived in the Sunshine State, since the cheerleaders had to raise the funds to cover their expenses.

“We held several fundraisers, including helping raffle off a 42- inch TV with the MHS Girls’ Athletics, raffling off a smoker/grill, several bake sales and Spirit Face tattoos,” Odom said.

“We also had the support of organizations and individuals who gave donations.  We had wonderful support from our county school administration, MHS administration and the faculty. So many people bought raffle tickets and baked goods and gave donations.  Between our fundraisers and those donations, the squad raised $9,200 for the trip, which was nearly 1,000 miles round-trip.”

The Capitol One Bowl adventure included a five-night, four-day stay at the Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. While they had the chance to enjoy the area’s theme parks, it certainly wasn’t all play for the squad, Odom says.

“It was an exhausting schedule. The girls rehearsed beginning at 7 a.m. and ending between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and they met at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the day of the game, to rehearse one last time at a local high school,” the coach said.

“After the rehearsal, the squad, parents, chaperones and other family members walked to the Capitol One Bowl. Following a performance by the Alabama and Michigan State’s bands, the squads took the field.”

The girls performed their five-and-half-minute routine before a sell-out crowd, with the McKenzie group right in front of two rows on the 25 and 22-yard lines facing the home side of Michigan State.

“It was an exciting event, even more so since the University of Alabama Crimson Tide was playing,” said Odom.

With a victory by the Tide, the McKenzie contingent’s dream trip to Orlando was complete.

Safe and sound back in McKenzie, Odom and her squad now treasure their memories of a very special trip.

“The girls had a great time. It was truly the best experience I ever had as a coach,” Odom said.

“It is so great to be a part of a community like McKenzie where people support their youth.”