When the Highland County Special Olympics basketball team organized in November last year, the group decided it was time the team had its own cheerleaders. So after some discussion, five cheerleaders came together to form the Wildcat cheerleader squad.
Cheerleaders included JeanAnn Jones, Courtney Adams, Amy Cokonougher, Madeline Rogers and Savannah Corrigan, according to Jordan Freeze, the Wildcat cheerleader coach.
“I wanted to do everything I could to help the girls out,” Freeze said, “So, since my knowledge of cheerleading is very limited, I contacted Dave Dietrick, the athletic director at Hillsboro High School, to see if maybe a couple of Hillsboro’s experienced cheerleaders would be willing to help us out. Dave really stepped up and worked out every detail and scheduled times for four of the Hillsboro cheerleaders to work with the girls. It was a wonderful experience for our cheerleaders and I can’t thank Mr. Dietrick enough for everything he did to make it all come together.”
Dietrick said that the experience was one of the most fantastic experiences he has been fortunate enough to be a part of. He said the impact on so many throughout his school community and beyond has been remarkable.
“When Jordan approached me with a question of if we thought our cheerleaders might be able to offer some help to her own squad, I told her I would see what I could do. However, working with multiple schedules was a bit difficult,” Dietrick said.
Dietrick said he found that several of the high school cheerleaders had free time the last period of the day and on Wednesdays, there was a one-hour early release for the student body due to weekly teacher conferences.
“So, when the idea was presented to our girls, which included Beth Taylor, Baylee Eastes, Emily Hawk and Kirsten Harp, they never hesitated and volunteered to help whenever their schedules would allow,” Dietrick said. “On Wednesdays, we were able to host and set up a practice session with the girls during our last period of the day and for a short while before their own practice began. “No one could have guessed how this event would take off like it did! They quickly went from demonstrating a couple of cheers to really helping out the new squad.”
Dietrick said that at one point during the practices with the Wildcat squad, he was thanking his girls for what they were doing and was told by the girls that they enjoyed every minute of their time with the Wildcats, and that they would be disappointed when the season ended.
“Hillsboro High School was fortunate enough to host the final season home game for the Special Olympics basketball team,” Dietrick said. “We were able to play it in front of our entire student body. The pep band was playing and we did the announcing, just like a high school game. But the atmosphere was absolutely electric.”
The Wildcats won the game in overtime, 24-23, against the Ross County Public Schools Rebels.
“I could feel the impact on our students as they cheered the Wildcats to victory,” Dietrick said. “It was absolutely awesome, and we were very proud of everyone who was involved. We often speak of giving back and practicing humility, and this was our opportunity to springboard those words into reality.”