ASHLAND — Half a dozen girls at Paul G. Blazer High School claimed their places in the Tomcat athletic pantheon Monday, shaking pompoms and chanting cheers for the first time at a Kittens game against Fairview.

The girls also opened the contest with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a performance for which they practiced several weeks.

The girls are members of a special-education class at Blazer and were invited to cheer by Savannah Hammond, a junior who is on the varsity cheering squad. Hammond thought of the girls earlier this year when she was asked to choose a project for a teen volunteer program.

“I’ve grown up with them and gone to school with them. I love cheering, and I think they should get a chance to be a cheerleader for the night,” she said.

The six girls — seniors Faith Blankenship, Jinny Gipson and Kaitlyn Sharp, sophomores Sarah Campbell and Emily Pinkerman and freshman Larissa Deavers — practiced for weeks under Hammond’s coaching.

They made their debut shortly before game time with the national anthem, and returned to the limelight at center court at halftime for a series of cheers. Hammond taught them some of the standards her squad uses at other games, and introduced them to a thigh stand, which is an adventurous maneuver for which two girls lift and support a third.

The girls entered the arena with matching T-shirts, pompoms and bows in their hair supplied by the district’s special-education director, Lisa Henson, and members of her office staff.

Hammond secured the services of two hairdressers to arrange their coiffures.

She got some help from cheerleading director Cathy Goble, who said Hammond needed only minor guidance. “She taught the cheers herself and made changes to fit their needs,” Goble said.

The project played out more like a peer-to-peer interaction than a teacher/student relationship, according to Jamie Sellars, a special-education teacher who helped advise Hammond.

A night in the spotlight is good for the girls, he said. “These girls feel like they’re a part of something,” he said.

(606) 326-2652 |

mjames@dailyindependent.com

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