ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Three young girlfriends first began to cheer together in the eighth grade and shared a dream to one day cheer in college. This summer, they found out they will cheer together at the University of Georgia.
Three Alpharetta High School cheerleaders, Nicole Negri, Alex Stephens and Austin Edquist, wanted to continue their sport in college, never dreaming the three friends would each be chosen at UGA tryouts to do just that.
“We were all cheerleaders, but we were all gymnasts as well. And we can use our tumbling because they use that at UGA,” said Negri.
That of course is one of the major keys to their success. Excellent gymnasts, this allowed them to hone the skills that Georgia coach Jim O’Brien was looking for in his team. The trio trained at Georgia All Stars in Roswell.
Georgia All Stars had six gymnasts compete for the 42 slots that were open for the two Georgia cheering squads, and all six made it. Naturally the three AHS girls were close, though they were the only North Fulton residents on the team.
Georgia All Stars owner and coach Jamie Parrish said the tryouts were very competitive, which should not be surprising.
“Cheerleading is the fastest growing sport in America. There are gyms dedicated to the sport all over the country,” Parrish said.
Abbey Coppenger (Wesley), Drew Hixson (Appalachia) and Meredith Rhodes (Lambert) are the other Georgia All Stars to make it.
“We’re in the gym all year round. That’s the difference,” Negri said.
There were some 120 competing at the two-day tryout at UGA. There were three cuts the first day, trimming the number to 60. After two more grueling sessions the second day, Stephens, Edquist and Negri all made the list.
For Negri, it was a long-cherished dream to cheer for UGA. Stephens originally wanted to compete as one of the Gymdogs on the balance beam and the floor exercises, but she changed to cheering and now has that cherished slot on the team.
There are two UGA cheering squads; one is all girls and the other coed. They cheer for football, basketball, gym and girls’ volleyball. The Alpharetta cheerleaders won’t know which squads they will be on until they get to Athens in August.
Asked what she liked best about making the squad, Negri said that was easy.
“What I like best is representing Georgia, because that was always my dream,” she said.
For Stephens, it is being part of a team and the chance to expand her horizons.
“Being on a team is like a family. There is that sense of belonging. And you get to know different people from all over, not just Alpharetta,” she said. “Now you are guaranteed to have 40 best friends.”
Karen Negri, Nicole’s mom, said she was just as excited about this as her daughter was.
“That was always her wish, and now all that hard work and sacrifice has paid off,” she said.