Jennifer Grant's parents weren't die-hard University of Georgia fans before she visited UGA for a cheerleading tryout during spring break.
"They are now," the Evans senior said.
Grant survived four days of rigorous tryouts in Athens and was rewarded with a spot on the Bulldogs' Co-Ed "Red" squad, meaning she'll cheer at all Georgia home football games and probably travel to away games. She'll also cheer at men's and women's home basketball games, volleyball matches and gymnastics events.
Grant cheered for both Evans' competitive squad and for its sporting events. Her coach, Diedra Tanner, said Grant began concentrating heavily on UGA during her senior year.
"She really got on fire about going to the University of Georgia," Tanner said. "It's always been a dream of hers to cheer for college."
Grant will carry a stellar academic record with her to UGA. She expects to finish in the top 10 in her class and is involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including a role on The Augusta Chronicle's Teen Board.
In Athens, the first day of tryouts tested physical fitness and included a mile run that hopefuls were expected to finish in less than 7:30.
The group spent Friday tumbling and stunting on grass before cuts Friday night. Grant said Saturday's workout began at 9 a.m. and lasted eight hours. The morning was spent performing standing tucks on a hardwood gym floor and learning band dances. More cuts were made after lunch.
Saturday afternoon featured more tumbling, and the remaining contenders had to learn more band dances and cheers.
At Evans, Grant said, she was given days to work on a routine. At the tryout, she said she was given about 15 minutes.
Grant and the others who remained Saturday night were assigned an interview time for Sunday morning, when participants had to dress up and field questions from a panel.
Everything came together Sunday afternoon. Grant and the others were randomly assigned stunt groups and asked to perform for a panel of 10 judges everything they'd learned the previous three days.
The performance included a cheer during which performers had to use signs reading "Red" and "Black."
"I'd never used a sign," Grant said. "It was kind of awkward."
She waited until around 10:30 p.m. that Sunday to learn she had made the squad.
"It's intense," UGA spirit coordinator Shelly O'Brien said. "She obviously scored very well."
Grant said she was a little overwhelmed at first by the format of the tryout.
To make the Knights squad, she performed in front of only a few people. The tryouts at UGA were open, meaning a steady flow of traffic came and went.
"Anyone who wanted to watch came in there," Grant said.
Grant said she's prepared for the difference in the number of football fans she cheered for at Evans vs. the number she'll see at Sanford Stadium in the fall. Evans High's John Pierce Blanchard Stadium has a capacity of 5,000, while UGA's Sanford Stadium holds 92,000.
"I think my first football game will be a lot more people," she said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.