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NHS Girls eager to get started

NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School players are not the only ones preparing for the football season.

The school’s cheerleaders have been working hard all summer and attended LSU’s cheer camp in July, and cheer captain Kalethia Gines said she couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming season.

But as a senior, cheering on Friday nights will be bittersweet for the captain.

“I know it’s my last year,” Gines said. “I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”

Gines has been cheering since she was 12 years old with Natchez cheer coaches Erika Bowman and Kiwanis Barnes.

Bowman and Barnes started a cheer program called Natchez Little Pups 12 years ago, and just like Gines, several of the Natchez High cheerleaders started out in that program.

“We have the program so when the girls transition from middle school to high school, it’s not hard to teach them because they’ve established themselves already,” Barnes said

The struggle for Barnes and Bowman this year has been the number of new girls joining the squad.

“It was tough at first, getting so many girls this year,” Bowman said. “We had 14 girls last year, but the athletic director wanted us to have a larger squad. It was difficult at first to have so many girls with little cheering experience.”

With a new challenge to overcome, Barnes and Bowman connected with their team captain and practiced four days a week during the summer to get their team up to speed.

Barnes said it wasn’t difficult teaching the girls because they are quick learners.

“They are receptive to whatever information we give them,” Barnes said.

Gines said she enjoys being the captain because all of the girls love cheering just as much as she does.

“They’re eager to learn,” Gines said. “They’re willing to work hard. I just want to help my girls. They have a lot of potential and I’m here to help them as much as possible.”

With school starting Monday, Barnes said the team has improved drastically.

“Looking at them now, you can’t tell who are the new girls and who’s been here awhile,” Barnes said. “We’ve worked very hard.”

Gines said there are a few stunts that the team will continue to work on before showcasing them on Friday nights.

“We’re still learning some stunts like our basket toss, transitional pyramids and our lifts,” Gines said.

As Friday night inches closer, the cheer team will be eager to put on their new black, metallic gold and royal blue cheer uniforms.

“We’re very excited for the football season,” Gines said. “Especially after seeing the girls practice all summer. Finally seeing them perform is exciting.” Bowman said.

Gines said the team is at every game no matter what.

“We go to the away games on our own bus,” Gines said. “The weather conditions don’t matter. If it rains, get your raincoat and get back out there. If it’s cold, put on your warm ups and keep cheering.”

Bowman said their love for cheerleading and the game of football go hand in hand. They’re not just perky because they’re cheerleaders, they’re perky because they love the game.

“When the ball runs down the field, we run down the sideline as well,” Bowman said.

Gines said once the school year ends, she could see herself cheering on the collegiate level.

“This is not a hobby for me, it’s a passion,” Gines said. “I’ve been doing it all my life.”

Though she plans to move ahead with her cheer career, she said she will never forget about NHS.

“I know I will come back and try to help with the girls as much as I can,” Gines said.

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