Local student fulfills dream of cheering for Nittany Lions
Bethlehem native Emily Starner remembers attending Penn State football games as a little girl. But like many other girls in the stadium, her attention was fixed more on the sidelines at the squad holding the pompoms rather than the football. Come this fall, after years of dreaming and hard work, Starner will be one of the young ladies that other little girls will look up to as she takes her place on the field as a Penn State cheerleader.
In March, Starner, who attended the Lehigh Valley campus for the past two semesters, joined roughly a hundred other girls with the same goal of becoming a Penn State cheerleader. When the news that she had made the University's small co-ed team, the team she hoped to make, came via phone call, Starner was overjoyed.
"Cheering for Penn State has been my dream for as long as I can remember. It is amazing to think back and remember how I would admire the Penn State cheerleaders and how I told myself that one day, that would be me," says Starner, a kinesiology major and member of the class of 2014. "When I found out I made it, I couldn't help but cry. I can honestly say my biggest dream in life came true. How many people in their life can truly say their dream came true?"
But her dream come true did not happen without years of hard work and intense preparation. Starner has been a cheerleader since the age of ten. Since middle school, she cheered for an all-star team called Rocket Elite in Easton, Pa. She also cheered on the varsity team at Liberty High School. Starner also took gymnastics classes from a very young age and continued to perfect her tumbling with a class designed specifically for cheerleaders called cheernastics at Lehigh Valley Sports Academy in Allentown.
Starner personally raised the bar on her fitness goals in preparation for the Penn State tryouts adding video workouts, running, and a greater focus on nutrition to her regular routine of cheering practice. Despite all of her training, Starner was still extremely nervous during tryouts.
"Each day of tryouts was difficult and was filled with new criteria to meet. I remember on the first night of tryouts, I left feeling so nervous and anxious because there were so many good cheerleaders there," says Starner. "But no matter how nervous I was, I had to remember to put my heart into everything I did on that mat. I couldn't worry about the skills other girls had or how many I was competing against. I just had to worry about myself and make sure I was doing the absolute best I could. And sure enough, the heart and dedication I have for this team made me stand out."
Hopefuls were evaluated on standing and running tumbling skills, stunting skills, a dance and cheer that they were taught, the fight song, and interview skills. Starner will be part of the co-ed squad that cheers for home football and basketball games, as well as some away games.
"Although I know I worked so hard for this, it still doesn't feel real. This is the biggest accomplishment I have ever achieved and I couldn't have done it without the amazing support system I had at home from my parents, my family, and my friends. I cannot wait to start cheering next fall!"