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Smith excited to cheer for Tusculum University

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

“The first time I ever went to visit it was an amazing environment. The mountains remind me of home and all of the people were so kind and welcoming. As soon as I walked into the administration office I knew I was home.”

 

That was what Pulaski County High School senior Laikin Smith first had to say about Tusculum University, where she will be spending the next four years as a member of the Pioneer cheer squad. Smith made her official decision recently, signing a letter of intent to become a member of the Pioneer family after high school graduation.

 

The Pioneers are led by Spirit Coordinator Jessica Inscore. Tusculum University is a member of the South Atlantic Conference, which includes Anderson University, Carson-Newman University, Catawba College, Coker Colege, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Lincoln Memorial University, Mars Hill University, Newberry College, Queens University of Charlotte, Wingate University and Limestone College.

 

“I went on a tour that day and we saw the trophy case,” she remembered. “I saw all the cheer trophies and realized it was truly home.”

 

Located in Greeneville, Tennessee, Smith feels like Tusculum offers what she needs for a college experience.

 

“I plan to major in Nursing, but I’ve always loved biology,” she said. “Just learning about the human body and the cells that make up the body have really interested me. It gives me the drive to further my knowledge about our bodies.”

 

With a 4.2 grade-point average, Smith has obviously taken care of her classroom work, which is one of the reasons she now has this opportunity.

 

“I’m getting some money for cheer, but most of the money I’ll be getting from scholarships is due to my grades,” she said. “If I could tell the young students one thing and one thing only, it would be to be better prepared and take care of your classwork first. It doesn’t matter how good of an athlete you are, if you don’t have the grades you can’t go to the next level.”

 

One downside to graduating high school, at least for Smith, is that it will likely be her final year of serious softball, where she is equally talented. A longtime member of the varsity squad, Smith can play a variety of positions including any of the bases, shortstop and catcher.

 

“It’s going to be so hard to give up softball,” Smith said. “As far back as I can remember, I was always throwing and catching for my sister in the backyard and hitting with her. I don’t plan on continuing softball, which is very sad for me, but everything has a time and a season and my time with softball is coming to an end.”

 

While she won’t be sweating on the softball diamond, Smith will still get her workout in through cheer.

 

“Cheer practice is like riding a roller coaster,” she said. “It’s a lot of up and down and it goes really fast most days, but it also slows down. There’s so much work that goes into it with learning the stunts and working in tumbling to have a successful routine.”

 

Despite the perception some people have of cheer, it can also be a dangerous sport.

 

“The amount of injuries that happen in cheer are inevitable,” she said. “When you’re throwing people around, stunting and flipping all over the mats, it can get dangerous very quickly. I’ve seen anything from broken collar bones to snapping both legs, but it’s all worth the pain and hard work when you’re doing something you love.”

 

Smith has been able to make some fine memories as a member of the Pulaski County competition and sideline cheer teams, but one stands out above the others.

 

“My favorite memory is a super recent one, when we won regionals for the first time ever,” she said. “The amount of love and happiness that was shared among the team was unbelievable. And to be the first competition from the Pulaski County High School to win regionals was something that I’ll cherish and never forget.”

 

So what advice will Smith leave with the younger athletes just getting their starts in Pulaski County sports?

 

“Never give up and always push for the absolute best,” she said. “Even when you think the best is the best, keep pushing. Strive for greatness and never forget that you can do anything you put your mind to. No matter what trials are thrown at you, never give up. I’ll always remember when Coach Jeff Linkous told me, ‘you can’t beat a girl when a girl doesn’t quit.’ Always remember that no matter what give your all because one day life is gonna hit and you’ll have to leave something that you love dearly. Always work to your full ability and be a leader no matter what.”

 

Laikin Smith is the daughter of Chris and Toni Smith of Dublin and Wendy and Burl Bowman of Pulaski.

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