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photos by Victoria Graff, Jeff David Jacoby and Michael Huang
By LARRY VAUGHT
Juliet McCreary of Huntersville, N.C. is a 19-year-old sophomore cheerleader at the University of Kentucky majoring in Integrated Strategic Communications, which is a mix between journalism, advertising and business. This is her second year on the UK blue squad and she has been cheering since she was 5 years old. She explains how a North Carolina fan ended up being a cheerleader at Kentucky and loving her minute of it.
Question: How did a North Carolina girl end up as a cheerleader at Kentucky?
McCreary: “My mom and I sat down one day after school and sent out my highlight video to every cheer coach in the SEC and other schools known for cheerleading. We wanted to go anywhere that would offer the best scholarship and the best program. When we came up for a visit, I fell in love with the campus and the team. Jomo Thompson (our coach) was the first coach to respond to our email and really made me feel wanted as part of the cheerleading program.
Question: Did you grow up a North Carolina/Duke fan and what do folks at home think about you being a UK cheerleader?
McCreary: “We moved to North Carolina when I was about sixth grade so I haven’t always been a fan but grew into a UNC fan because it was the ideal school to go to and support (also the closer of the two schools to where we lived). Everyone is actually really supportive and knows me as the ‘cheerleader’ back home, so they all think it is such a blessing to be able to make my dream a reality and continue cheering in college even so far away from home.”
Question: What’s the best part of being a cheerleader at Kentucky?
McCreary: “There are so many great things about being a Kentucky cheerleader. I would say the best part of it is being an ambassador for the university and wearing the UK on our chest. It is such an honor to be part of a program with a big history.”
Question: Do you ever feel pressure trying to win national title after national title since UK has 19 total titles and has won four of the last five?
McCreary: “Surprisingly no. We are good at preparing and practicing until there are no doubts. We have a ‘Kentucky way’ of doing skills with repetition and knowledge of knowing how to perform the skills. I don’t want to make us sound overconfident, but we value being well prepared and a winning attitude.”
Question: What’s one thing about UK cheerleading that you wish more people knew?
McCreary: “I wish more people knew how hard our schedules can get along the time of basketball games, football games, occasional volleyball games, and nationals practices. We practice three times a week for 2 1/2 hours each with games and school. I know people understand that we win national tittles, but that comes with hard work and the ability to prioritize everything throughout each day. I am always inviting people to our big showcases before a performance so they can see what we do beyond the sidelines at games.”
Question: What do you think of Kentucky fans?
McCreary: “I think Kentucky fans are crazy! They literally bleed blue. I think they are die-hard fans and once a Kentucky fan you’re always a Kentucky fan!”
Question: What plans do you have for life after cheerleading?
McCreary: “Well I really love sports in general and I love watching any college/pro sports team. I’m interested in working PR (public relations) with any major company or team to keep involved. My dream job would to be with Nike. I love that they are such an innovative company and there is always something new to put out there for any sports team.”