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By LARRY VAUGHT
Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson will play their final game in Rupp Arena Tuesday night.
Today Kentucky junior cheerleader Juliet McCreary has a story about Hood that shows what a gracious, genuine young man he is and why so many fans love him even though he’s been able to play only limited minutes at UK.
“The first time I met Jon Hood was when we had a class together. A little bit later in the year I was moving apartments. I tweeted something like I didn’t know how I was going to get my bedroom furniture from one place to the other because it was pouring down rain,” McCreary said.
“He direct messaged me back (on Twitter). He came right by my apartment and helped me get to another apartment. I thought that was a really genuine thing and he’s a really nice person who always makes a point to tell me congratulations after something or good game or saw you at the game. He is a sweet kid, so it is nice to know him.”
How unique at UK is that for a big-time athlete just to randomly volunteer to help someone?
“I am sure they all would do something like that, but he just puts himself out there and is a really nice kid. He just does it because he is a good kid. I really like him,” McCreary said.
So do UK fans and Tuesday night, they’ll get one final chance to show Hood that.
Thanks to Kim McCreary, mother of UK sophomore cheerleader Juliet McCreary, for passing this information along:
“Wanted to let you know cheerleaders are performing national routine halftime Tuesday at basketball game! Cheer loud kids have worked endless hours and need the crowd to yell!! Have fun and enjoy! Go UK! Beat Tennesse.”
So if you are going to tonight’s UK-Tennessee game, pay attention at halftime to watch the UK cheerleaders hope will turn into another national championship routine Sunday in Orlando.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky will be aiming for its 20th national championship at the UCA National College Cheerleading Championship Jan. 18-20 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Kentucky has won the title four of the last five years, including 2012 when Juliet McCreary was a freshman. Now the 19-year-old sophomore from Huntersville, N.C. is hoping to be part of a second straight national championship and shares her insights on the upcoming championship.
Question: How do you feel about UK’s chances to win the national championship again?
McCreary: “I feel confident in our chances to win the national championship! I think with the right mindset and our ability to be prepare, we will be victorious. The most important thing is confidence in the routine and trusting that your teammates know what to do. With that being said the routine will speak for itself!”
Question: What has the team been concentrating on the most to get ready for the competition?
McCreary: “We have had 2 a day practices everyday over break. Cheerleading is a bit different from other sports. We don’t run “plays” and don’t get second chances or a halftime break to redeem ourselves if our team is lagging. We compete 1 routine that is judged on how well our stunts, tumbling, cheer, and pyramids are. We practice the same routine over and over until its perfect with no mistakes and try to perfect each skill in order to get the maximum score. I know it might sound boring but we literally run the same routine and become nit picky over video on what to make better. The goal is to hit the routine perfect with no mistakes every time we run the routine. I do have to add that Its easier said then done.”
Question: Is the trip/competition fun for you or is there so much pressure that you can’t enjoy the experience?
McCreary: “The trip is extremely fun! It is located in Orlando Florida so it cant get much better than that. We have a practice day at the wide world of sports to show off our stunts and meet other teams. The following 2 competition days is where our focus needs to be 100 percent but at this point we are prepared as we will ever be. There is pressure to do well but its positive pressure that helps us perform. Its not bad to have a little bit of pressure but I can’t imagine a trip with Kentucky Cheerleading that will ever “too much” pressure that I couldn’t enjoy the experience. Thats not what our program is about.”
Question: What kind of parent/family/fan support does Kentucky normally receive at this event?
McCreary: “ Last year was my first year at this event but from what I’ve seen, the support is great. Parents and families almost always are there because it is the one and only competition to see their child perform if they are able to go. The attendance is pretty high because of how huge the venue is and what teams compete. I know my parents are coming and using half of the trip as their vacation. Mom says she needs a tan anyways. It’s a nice trip for everyone.”
Question: Finally, how does the competition works to those who may not know?
McCreary: “The UCA college nationals is one of the most prestigious national championships for college cheerleading in the country. We are down in Florida for five days. The first day is a practice day. Next are the semifinals on saturday, and we compete to make it to the next day. Unfortunately not every team makes it to Sunday. Once we get to Sunday, we warm up outside on the grass around other teams. Next we go to an actual warm-up room which leads us right to the competition floor after that. Once that is done, we wait for awards.
“Note that we are not the only division in this competition which gets confusing. Our division is D1 A. There is also a D2 division and a few others. This just is based on the schools (like football in a way). The dance team also competes in this competition along with other divisions and other dance teams as well as mascots! It is filled with college athletes working towards a national championship.”
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.”