Iles marches in Houston’s Thanksgiving Day parade

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Thanksgiving Day meant a 2-mile walk, eight dance routines and hundreds of smiles and waves for one Natchez cheerleader.

Mary Catherine Iles, a junior varsity cheerer at Trinity Episcopal, earned her spot in the Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade by impressing the judges at annual Universal Cheerleading Association camp back in the summer.

She had several weeks to learn a dance routine to &uot;I’m a Believer,&uot; from the movie &uot;Shrek,&uot; which was mailed to her on video tape from UCA headquarters.

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Last Tuesday Iles and her family headed to the Texas metropolis to meet up with a hoard of other cheerleaders and prepare for the parade.

The cheerers, most of which had never met, had their first practice together and spent some time seeing the sites before the 9 a.m. Thursday parade.

The annual parade has about 3,000 participants and 400,000 spectators and was televised.

Iles,13, was the only cheerleader from the Natchez area chosen to walk in the parade.

Learning the dance for the parade took only about a weekend, mom Simmons said, but the tape played in the house many times after that.

&uot;I just made sure I knew it,&uot; Iles said. &uot;Then I’d turn it on for fun.&uot;

The eighth-grader has been cheering for a year and a half now and hopes to continue on the varsity squad in high school.

&uot;At first I just tried out for it, then I decided I really loved it,&uot; Iles said after cheering at a JV boys basketball game. &uot;I like being with friends on the sidelines and getting to yell.&uot;

In addition to cheerleading, Iles is on the JV girls basketball team and the soccer team and runs cross country. She is a straight A student and said her favorite subject is Latin.

After school hours are consumed with sports practices and most of the homework is done in study hall or late at night, she said.