SHEPHERDSVILLE – After competing with each other over the past few years, four Bullitt Central cheerleaders late this spring decided to keep doing it, accepting financial aide packages to cheer at Morehead State University.
At the same time, Bullitt Central senior Cameron Hurst earned a cheerleading spot at the University of Louisville.
All five teammates made it all official at the end of the school year when they signed in a ceremony in the Bullitt Central lobby in front of teammates, family and friends.
With high school cheerleading moving to the realm of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association this year and becoming even more competitive, if that is possible, there is more emphasis on advancing out of high school and to the next level.
At the college level, three of the top programs for cheerleding in the country are at the University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky and Morehead State. All three programs have multiple national championships.
Bullitt Central cheerleading coach James Moore has put athletes into high-level programs before, but this was the first time for a public announcement. In fact, Moore estimates that over 60 Bullitt Central cheerleaders have been on squads at the next level.
Moore just completed his sixth season at Bullitt Central. The Cougar program won the Co-Ed State Championship in 2011.
Cheerleading now is not your grandparents’ cheerleading. It is competitive and intense. Moore said that is what attracted his five athletes to the big programs.
“I think they have embraced it as a competitive endeavor,” Moore said. “They are all great competitors. They are looking for a national championship.
“Morehead has about 24 national championships in cheer,” the Cougar coach added. “That sparked the interest of these kids. The University of Louisville is the same. The three programs in the state are always competing for national championships. These kids wanted to go to the best.”
Unlike other sports, college recruiters don’t get out and watch the high school cheerleaders on Friday nights. Instead, they watch competitive events and then have try-outs in the spring during which they select athletes capable of flourishing in their programs.
Of the five Bullitt Central cheerleaders that signed this year, Cameron Hurst chose the University of Louisville while Kelly Grassi, Stephanie Owens, Chandler Allen and Justin Jeffries all were selected by Morehead State University.
For the past two years, Hurst has known that he wanted to cheer for the University of Louisville.
The son of Chris and Randy Hurst has his only try-out with the Cardinals and was selected.
“There were a lot of people there,” the senior said of the try-out for the Louisville team.
Hurst didn’t start cheerleading until his sophomore year at Bullitt Central, having played basketball as a freshman and then running cross-country for two years.
“My friends sort of talked me into it,” Hurst said of joining the Bullitt Central team.
At the University of Louisville, Hurst plans to major in pre-med who hopes of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
Grassi has been eyeing a spot on the Morehead cheerleading squad for the past couple of years. That put a little pressure on the try-outs that she and her Cougar teammates went to May 3-5. Within a week, she had been invited back and accepted the offer.
The daughter of Sherrie and Ron Grassi, will be cheering for the All-Girl team at Morehead.
Grassi has plans of majoring in dentistry while in college.
For the past four years, Grassi has been part of the Bullitt Central cheerleading program after coming over from Bullitt Lick Middle School. She works out at Gym Tyme to stay in shape for cheerleading.
Kelly Grassi and Stephanie Owens are cousins, but Stephanie was selected for the Co-Ed team at Morehead.
Owens has been a cheerleader for four years at Bullitt Central and also attended Bullitt Lick Middle School. She works out at Gym Tyme
Owens also attended the try-out session May 3-5, but she had already been accepted and was planning to attend Morehead State even if the try-out had not gone as well as it did.
The daughter of Tammy Grassi is hoping that this will not be her last cheerleading challenge. Owens is planning to major in education with the idea of becoming a high school or middle school cheerleading coach.
Allen had never done any cheerleading until he accepted the challenge at Bullitt Central at the start of his junior year. He quickly found his calling and then he was accepted to become a member of the Co-Ed squad at Morehead.
“I just showed up that one day,” Allen said of his first year with the Cougar squad.
Before cheeleading, Allen played two years of football for Bullitt Central.
The son of Vanessa and James Allen is looking at majoring in either respiratory therapy or criminal justice.
Like a number of male cheerleaders at Bullitt Central, Jeffries started out in other sports and then joined the cheerleading squad. In the case of Jeffries, he played football for the Cougars for four years while also doing cheerleading the last two seasons.
The son of Claude and Carolyn Jeffries was selected to join the Co-Ed team at Morehead.
Jeffries had some inquires from schools interested in his football skills but he opted for cheerleading.
“I thought cheer would be easier to do both,” Jeffries said of doing both athletics and academics.
The senior had already been accepted at the University of Louisville as a student when the cheerleading opportunity opened up early in May.
While in college, Jeffries plans to work toward a degree in the medical field.