Kerri Phillips is used to cheering in front of large crowds, but the 4-foot-9 cheerleader had never performed before thousands of fans on national television before. Until Tuesday, that is.
Kerri Phillips, of Evans, shows off her All-American cheer bag. Kerri was to cheer in the pregame and half-time shows at the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami on Tuesday.
Photo by Quandra Collins
Kerri, a 13-year-old member of the Lakeside Middle School football cheer squad and Haydens All Star Junior Black cheer squad, was to perform Tuesday in the pre-game and half-time shows at the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami.
"I was extremely nervous and excited," Kerri said, who received a letter in the mail from the National Cheerleading Association in November inviting her to perform in the BCS National Championship game.
For the past four days, Kerri spent every waking hour practicing dance routines and cheers with several hundred cheerleaders, who all are members of the All-American team - a prestigious award given out by the cheerleading association.
While Kerri celebrated the new year, she enjoyed soaking up some fun in the sun at the beach and shopping around town in the Miami area.
Before her cheering career began, Kerri said, she was a competitive dancer and had participated in clogging, tap, pointe, ballet and lyrical competitions.
"I've been a competitive dancer at Martinez Dance Studio for 10 years," Kerri said.
She said things changed when she and a few of her friends decided to try out for her school's cheerleading squad in the spring of 2003. After she received some helpful tips from a cheer expert at Gold's Gymnastic Gym in Martinez, Kerri said, she was on her way.
"I had to go from dancer to cheerleading," she said, conceding that she had no cheer experience and the only thing she could do was jump.
"You go from flowing to popping, graceful to snap," she said.
Since then, Kerri has excelled in cheering.
After she made her school squad, she then tried out for the association's All-American team in the summer of 2003 with eight of her friends. Kerri made that team, but her mother, Lynn Phillips, said Kerri decided not to join because she had made a pact with three of her fellow cheerleaders who also made the team.
"It was shocking for us when she made the team,'' Phillips said.
"Only four girls, including Kerri, made the squad. The decision was made that if there was a scheduling conflict with any of the girls then they wouldn't go."
After withdrawing her application, Kerri said, she had no idea she would ever get such an opportunity again. She was wrong.
"I received an e-mail this year, and they invited her to participate (on the All-American team) this year," Phillips said.
Kerri's participation in Tuesday's bowl game is something she said she also will never forget.
"It has been such an honor to have been picked to do this," she said.
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