By R. Alan Richardson
Most athletes strive and dream of winning championships. It doesn’t matter if it’s little league, middle school, high school or college. Kaylee Darsey is no different. She’s worked her entire life to win a championship. In her wildest dreams she never thought it would be a National Cheerleading Championship at the college level that she would be enjoying in her freshman year of college. When asked how it felt she said, “It feels unreal. I never thought I would be a national champ. It’s something I’ve worked for all my life and since we didn’t win a state championship in high school this has made up for it.”
Kaylee was the very first Morgan County High School competition cheerleader to sign a scholarship last spring to attend Shorter University in Rome. She credits her parents for much of her success. “My parents (Pastor John and Jodi Darsey) pushed me to be the best athlete and person I could be. Winning a National Title makes me happy and thankful for them putting all the time, energy, and money into this for me. It’s a very expensive sport and they have been supporting my dream since I was three. My Mom told me on vacation that it finally paid off and she was proud of me. They’ve traveled with me all over the country to compete and I’m very thankful for them.”
The Shorter University squad competed in the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) National Championship in Daytona coming away with their fifth national championship since 2009. The other titles came in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 in the NCA All-Girl Division and NAIA Small Coed Category. This season’s win was the second for Shorter in the Intermediate Small Coed II Division.
It couldn’t have been much closer as the team narrowly beat out Valdosta State by only .74 points at 94.37 to 96.63.
Coach Reid was quoted on Shorter’s website as saying, “When I was first hired, every athlete on the team came to me with the same two goals; to be a family and to win a national championship. They fought through a lot of adversity over the past year and they did it together. They never lost focus and as a family, they were able to come together and cap off their season with a National Championship. I could not be more honored to coach this group of young men and women,” he adds. They inspire me every day to be a better coach and a better person. All of the 6a.m. practices, all of the workouts, have led us to the school’s first national title since 2012. It is a new beginning for Shorter Cheerleading, and we are all ready to get back to work for next year.”
Darsey talked about the competition in the finals saying, “I’m still speechless. I can’t believe it happened to me. We went into the finals in second place behind the University of Texas at Dallas knowing that if we hit our routine we could win it all. That’s what we did. For the first time all season we knew on our last pose that we hit it perfectly and had it in the bag. When the coaches went to the podium and announced Valdosta as the second place winner we went crazy knowing we had done it! They gave us the trophy and banner. It’s a day I’ll never forget. After that we all followed the Daytona tradition by jumping in the ocean with our uniforms on. I can’t wait to get my ring. I want my ring!”
Championships come with a price. Kaylee talked about the grueling workouts and practices she had to endure under first year Coach Chad Reid and assistant Maci Jo Roberts. “It takes a lot of hard work dealing with 6 a.m. practices, workouts four days a week in the weight room and conditioning and the two-a-day practices going into the championship. I’ve gotten a lot stronger due to the intense workouts, but I didn’t think I was going to survive it at first. The balancing of academics and cheerleading was hard, but Coach Reid believes in grades coming first. I’ve had to study lots more than in high school.” She’s planning on majoring in math to hopefully become an accountant or secondary math teacher as well as possibly coaching one day. The team only lost two seniors and according to her, “We should be stacked next year.”
It’s only been one year since Kaylee left MCHS. She’s already leaving a legacy for young girls to follow, and has made her hometown proud not only as an athlete, but as a person. Congratulations on a well-deserved title.