Ledford's Brotherton to cheer for WCU

Jun. 04, 2014 @ 08:25 PM

Rachel Brotherton always kept college cheerleading in the back of her mind.

She wasn’t sure if she wanted to go that route or if she’d even be selected. But, when it came down to it, she knew what she wanted to do. So, Brotherton, a senior at Ledford, tried out for the cheerleading team at NCAA Division I Western Carolina and made it.

“It feels good to know that I’ve accomplished becoming a collegiate athlete,” she says. “I never thought I’d be the person to make it in college for cheer. So, to accomplish that is a great feeling.

“I was astonished about making it. The level of competition was pretty high. So, to be one of the select few who made it was amazing.”

Brotherton, the daughter of Jim and Jana of High Point, grew up participating in competitive gymnastics. But after 12 years, she had gotten burned out on it. So, in middle school at Ledford Middle, she decided to shift her focus to cheerleading.

Thanks in large part to her background in gymnastics, she excelled as a cheerleader, particularly with tumbling. So, as a freshman, when she made the varsity team at Ledford, which has a strong history in competition cheerleading, that was a tremendous confidence boost.

“My brother (Curtis, a standout in golf at Ledford and High Point) went to high school here, and he told me that making varsity as a freshman was a major accomplishment,” she says. “So, when I told my family I’d made it, it was amazing.”

Brotherton worked hard to combine her natural gymnastics skills with the strength she built to be a base when needed, and she helped the Panthers win five championships between the NCHSAA’s and Spirit Xpress’ yearly competitions and finish fifth nationally as a senior.

Sure, there were difficult moments, she says. But she always got the support she needed from her family and team to keep going.

“There were times when I thought, ‘I’m not going to do it anymore,’” she says. “But I’m so glad I didn’t go through with it. I’m glad I stuck with it. My coach always tells me to keep pushing through it. She tells me how great I was, just great encouragement.”

As she went through her senior year, she thought about letting go of cheerleading after high school. But, after she applied to WCU and got in, she kept thinking about it and decided to give it a shot. So, she tried out and made it – becoming just one of eight new cheerleaders out of 50.

“It was kind of a little last minute – I was hesitant to try out,” says Brotherton, who wants to study broadcasting. “I didn’t know if I wanted to continue cheerleading. But I knew that if I went to Western and went to football games and saw the cheerleaders that it’d be heartbreaking. So, I decided to stick with it.”