RUTLEDGE – Carson-Newman University’s cheerleader squad will have a new sister act next season.
Grainger High School senior Ashlyn Nickels signed scholarship papers Wednesday, April 21 and will be joining her older sister Allison when she enrolls this fall. The scholarship is worth $1,000.
Nickels won a spot on the team after going through an unusual tryout process because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“We had virtual tryouts and could not see what the others were doing. We also had to submit a video. It was definitely competitive,” Nickels said.
Nickels said there were about 20 people competing for places on the team. She said she knew some of the competitors were from Morristown East, Morristown West and Jefferson County.
She said she has always been drawn to cheerleading, “ever since I could walk. I always loved dance and tumbling in the back yard.”
She said she and her sister are both excited at the prospect of cheering together again.
“Allison and I cheered together my freshman year in high school and when we did competitive cheer a few years ago. Allison will definitely be hard on me, but she does it to make me the best I can be,” Nickels said.
Nickel’s mother started her in competitive cheering at an early age. She has been a school cheerleader for six years, two at Rutledge Middle School and four years at Grainger.
Nickels said one of her best experiences was cheering for the Lady Grizzles in the Class AA state tournament in Murfreesboro. She believes having a crowd and cheerleaders in the gym definitely helped them on the way to the championship game.
“We had to be on our A game. Our team really fed off the crowd,” Nickels said.
She also has her education planned out.
“I want to major in early childhood education, Pre-K through third grade. I want to get my certification and come back to Grainger County and teach first grade,” Nickels said.
This summer, she will be working at Dollywood’s Splash Country and spending time with her family.
Amanda Kirby, Ashlyn’s coach the past six years, said Carson-Newman will be a good fit for her.
“I was very excited for her. Carson-Newman fits her personality,” Kirby said.
She said Nickels is a very hard worker who will do what it takes to get the job done.
“She knows her position. She will sacrifice her body to make sure her flyer doesn’t hit the floor. She is full of spirit, always smiling and loves to get the crowd involved,” Kirby said.