By LARRY VAUGHT
Emily Sawyer graduated a semester early at West Jessamine High School in Nicholasville so she could pursue her goal of becoming a University of Kentucky cheerleader.
Not only did she make the team, but she’s been part of two national championship teams and cheered in two Final Fours — and is hoping for a third. She’ll cheer for the final time at Rupp Arena Saturday, so I asked her how winning a national championship compares with going to a Final Four.
“These are two very different but very exciting experiences! During our stay in Orlando for our championship it is strictly business —until after the award ceremony of course — but the pressure is on and the intensity is high. We follow a strict schedule and it is ‘our’ moment,” Sawyer said. “Cheering in the Final Four is still business and our job is to lead the Cats to a victory but the the trips are definitely a little more relaxed and sort of a mini vacation from Lexington! It’s great to see the BBN supporting both events.
“I was amazed to see how many UK basketball fans traveled to support the Cats during the Final Four my sophomore year. I love traveling and staying in hotels and both of these events are just the ultimate college student experience. During our championship we also have a squad of BBN members and fellow alumni that come down to Florida and cheer us on each year.
“I am a Kentucky basketball lover born and raised and to have the best seats in the house, on the court, during the Final Four is a dream! I will say that the loss during the NCAA Tournament last year was heartbreaking for me and my teammates. We really feel like we are their biggest fans and biggest supporters. We love cheering them on in Rupp and having the opportunity to follow them to the Final Four, and so a loss for them is a loss for us, too.
“I will never forget after that game, my teammates and I were gathered together in the hallway … some of us were crying, some of us just silent and devastated.. Then Coach Cal comes riding on the back of a (golf) cart and stopped to say ‘Hey, now. Pick your heads up! We’re going to be alright. Thank you guys for all of your support.’ That meant so much to me coming from him.”
She says the friendships she has made and relationships she has developed are the most memorable things for her about her time at UK.
“You don’t know how close you can actually become to someone until you spend just about every waking minute of the day with one another. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. These people in the program are my family and I will carry these friendships throughout my lifetime. This might sound a little crazy but I am already excited for alumni reunions and reminiscing on the good days,” she said.
Crazy? Not at all for this outgoing, talented UK senior.
In fact, she gets to keep cheering because she made the USA national coed cheerleading team. She’s one of only 13 girls in the country on the squad. Kentucky had another female and one male make the team as well. The USA national team has won eight gold medals since 2009.
“I continue to strengthen my skills and will report to training on April 10th to compete for my country on April 22nd,” she said. “I will be in the same arena on the same mat (in Orlando) but this time I won’t be wearing the UK on my chest. I will be repping (representing) the Red White and Blue!”
She always seems to be smiling and jokes that is part of a cheerleader’s job. However, being a “Kentucky basketball lover born” it is impossible for her not to smile at games.
“It’s hard not to smile when you’re in Rupp Arena or Commonwealth Stadium. This is my dream come true. Even on the hard days, wearing this uniform can put a smile on my face,” Sawyer said.
She plans to graduate in December and apply to the obstetrics (OB) unit at the UK hospital to work as a registered nurse for at least a year. Her mother was a nurse, so she wants to follow her footsteps.
“Then I am going to apply to The Frontier graduate nursing school to get my Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and specialize in midwifery. OB is my area of interest and I would love to deliver babies and take care of mothers-to-be in the setting and atmosphere they so choose,” Sawyer said.
And with her outgoing personality and charm — not to mention her attention to detail — it would seem mothers-to-be would be lucky to have her taking care of them.