Southeast Whitfield High School senior Karina Sandoval was already looking forward to going to Dalton State College next year.
The Roadrunners have given her reason to cheer.
Sandoval celebrated signing an athletic scholarship with Dalton State College’s cheerleading program Monday at Southeast. She’ll be part of the first group to cheer on the reborn Roadrunners, who begin competition in several sports next year after intercollegiate athletics was dormant at Dalton State for decades.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Sandoval, who has been a cheerleader since she was a sixth-grader at Valley Point Middle School. “I’m so glad they did it. At the beginning, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, after high school I’m staying at Dalton State and I’ll have nothing to do (as far as cheerleading).’ Then finally they got the cheerleading program and I was so excited.”
While Sandoval was a four-year member of Southeast’s cheerleading squad, the Lady Raiders haven’t had a competition squad since she was a freshman, which means the extent of Sandoval’s cheering the past three years was on the sidelines of basketball and football games. But Dalton State will also have a competition squad, meaning the opportunity to return to the more intense activity will be available for Sandoval.
After mostly serving as a base for cheerleading formations and stunts in high school — she did some flying as a freshman for the competition squad — Sandoval hopes to be able to work as both a base and flyer for the Roadrunners. She recently began taking classes in cheerleading and gymnastics through the Creative Arts Guild in Dalton.
“Not many people know that competitive cheerleading is very, very serious,” Sandoval said. “We have to weight train like a football player does and we have to have a lot of hours practicing. ... Stunting is very dangerous and it’s not easy, but it’s very fun and I love it.”
Dalton State coach Robyn Newell said the Roadrunners will sign between 30 and 40 cheerleaders before next school year, with 23 making the competition roster and 16 on the floor for competition.
As for Sandoval, Newell said she will be a good fit for a program hoping to help create excitement on campus and in the community regarding the return of Dalton State athletics.
“When I first met Karina, it was her personality,” Newell said. “She possesses all the positive academic and personality traits of a cheerleader — something positive that can be spread around campus. She can definitely be a leader. Her personality is explosive. She’s always smiling and that was definitely something that we needed on our spirit squad.”
While Sandoval missed out on competition the past few years, that won’t be the case for Southeast cheerleaders next season as the school returns to that style of cheerleading under new coach Kali Cline, who was an assistant this past season. Cline is excited not only about that change but the fact that Dalton State College will offer area high school cheerleaders a local college option when it comes to their sport.
“We have several girls now that are thinking it’s possible to go on to college and cheer,” Cline said. “It’s awesome to have a program that is close by — it’s a little more realistic. We’ve actually had the opportunity of working with some of their coaches with the girls going to tumbling over at the (Creative Arts Guild). That’s where the Dalton State coaches are, so we’ve gotten the opportunity to talk with them and they’re really great. We’re looking forward to that partnership.”