May 23, 2013

Dalton State notebook: Lady Cats' Ellis ready to fly with Roadrunners

Madison Ellis was ready for Dalton State College athletics even before the Roadrunners were ready for her.

That should leave little doubt about what kind of spirit the Dalton High School senior will bring to the college’s cheerleading program when it launches into action later this year.

Ellis is the second area student-athlete this week to hold a signing ceremony with Dalton State’s cheerleading program. She celebrated with her fellow Lady Catamounts on Wednesday afternoon at Dalton High, where the guests included Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh — someone who has known about Ellis for a while now.

She was the one who made sure of that, contacting Waugh after she learned this past summer that the Roadrunners would bring men’s basketball back after an absence of more than three decades. She figured cheerleading would follow suit and wanted to be a part of the squad if that was the case.

“I was just interested. I wanted to be there and help as much as I could,” said Ellis, who attended the introductory press conference for Roadrunners basketball coach Tony Ingle in August 2012.

““I’ve been interested in Dalton State for a while just for academics, and when I heard about sports, I was just like, ‘Wow, let’s get the tradition going and get everybody involved at the college like they are at the high school.’ I think (athletics) will make all the students more involved at the college and get the school spirit up.”

Dalton State cheerleading coach Robyn Newell already had a recruiting list — well at least one name, anyway — waiting on her when she was hired this past October, thanks to Ellis. Newell is looking forward to putting that energy to use for the Roadrunners, who will have both spirit and competition squads.

The spirit squads will cheer at athletic events and take part in campus and community functions, while the competition squad — 23 cheerleaders will make that roster, with 16 allowed on the floor at any given time during a competition — will represent the school against other squads. Newell, who has signed 24 cheerleaders, has previously said she would like to sign between 30 and 40 before the roster is complete.

Whatever she ends up doing for the Roadrunners, Newell expects Ellis to give her best.

“She was all about representing her hometown. She was all about Dalton,” Newell said. “She loves where she comes from, she loves her friends, she loves her family and she’s totally ready to represent Dalton State.”

While Ellis has served as a base in the past, holding up teammates during formations and stunts, she’ll also see time as a flyer for the Roadrunners, giving her a chance to leave the ground and take on a new challenge with the coed squad. Newell said Ellis has done “an excellent job” making the transition since workouts began earlier this spring.

Ellis enjoyed success as a four-year member of Dalton High’s cheerleading program, with the Lady Cats finishing sixth at the Class 4A state competition each of the past two seasons. They were also Region 7-4A runners-up in 2012, and Ellis is just one part of a senior class Dalton coach Tami Fleming will miss next year. Lexi Chastine signed a scholarship with Young Harris College this past week, while Desirea Famber will be part of the first Georgia Northwestern Technical College cheerleading squad next school year.

Fleming said Ellis was a dedicated member of the team who jumped at the chance for extra training.

“I think she’s probably one of the hardest working kids we’ve ever had,” Fleming said. “Before her senior year, when most kids are slacking off and (saying), ‘Oh, I’m going to make it my senior year, I don’t have to work hard,’ she would come and tumble with me every single time that she could and then work out afterward on her own.”

Dalton State has provided area high school cheerleaders with a new local option for continuing their sport in college, and Fleming is glad to see a Lady Cat taking advantage of the opportunity. But she thinks Dalton State is getting a pretty good deal as well.

“They’re getting a good one,” she said. “They’ll never have to worry about discipline problems, they’ll never have to worry about her grades, they’ll never have to worry about her having priorities over cheerleading. She is just amazing.”

Ellis is glad to be part of something new that she also believes can be something great.

“I want to be there as the program grows,” she said. “I want to help set up traditions for years to come. ... It just means a lot to me to be here and be part of something that’s growing.”

PINEDA WILL RUN: Former Dalton High School distance runner Christian Pineda is coming home to be part of the new Dalton State cross country team after signing with the Roadrunners this week.

A 2011 Dalton High graduate, the 21-year-old Pineda has been running track and cross country for Bryan College, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics member in Dayton, Tenn. His return to town means being reunited with Margie Bruner, who along with Andy Meyer is leading the Roadrunners into their first season of competition this school year.

Bruner has served an assistant coach for cross country and track at Dalton High for several years, including during Pineda’s time with the Catamounts. Pineda was a two-time selection to The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Cross Country Team as well as its All-Area Spring Team.

“He is a quality runner and a fine young man,” Bruner said.

Because Pineda has two years of college experience, both Dalton State coaches believe he will help provide experience and leadership to what they believe will be a talented young squad.

“Chris is the signee we actually needed most,” Meyer said. “He will provide the leadership needed to mentor all of our young talent.

“He has been part of a very good college program and now brings his fabulous talent and work ethic to our program. It is one thing to hear a coach say something; it is another thing to hear an upperclassman say the same thing. That is what Chris provides our program.”

Pineda is Dalton High’s record holder in the 800-meter run with a time of 1 minute, 56.83 seconds. He was on an NAIA All-American distance medley relay team at Bryan.

A President’s Scholar at Bryan, Pineda will major in business at Dalton State. He is the son of Rosalinda and Orlando Pineda. His siblings are Brandon, 17; Julian, 10; and Camila, 7.

AND SANCHEZ, TOO: Jazmin Sanchez became the second Heritage-Catoosa High School runner to sign with Dalton State’s women’s cross country program when she inked with the Roadrunners on Tuesday in the James E. Brown Center on campus.

Meyer and Bruner look forward to working with Sanchez, who will join Lady Generals teammate Natalie Espinosa-Hensley at Dalton State. Heritage won the Georgia High School Association’s Class 3A state title in 2011.

“Jazmin has had a great running career at Heritage,” Meyer said. “She has proven to posses the physical talent and mental toughness to perform at a high level. We look forward to her continued evolution into a very good runner.”

Added Bruner, “Jazmin has a tremendous amount of potential as a runner. She has only been running for two years and has shown a lot of success. We are excited to add her to our growing team.”

Sanchez is a member of the National Honor Society and Beta Club and will graduate with honors next week. She plans to major in business management.

She is the daughter of Irma and Marco Sanchez of Ringgold. She has two sisters — Yaricza, 15, and Briana, 9.

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