Showing her spirit
Former Bluejay cheerleader Laurel Smith will finish her cheerleading career at Georgetown University.
From the time she donned her Sabetha High School cheer uniform in 2014, Laurel Smith always desired to be a positive role model for younger fans. Seven years later, 22-year-old Laurel still has that goal as a Georgetown University cheerleader.
In 2018, Laurel traded in her Sabetha Bluejay blue and gray cheer uniform for the Georgetown Hoyas blue and gray uniform, when she applied to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and tried out for the Hoyas cheer team.
“I hope people know that cheerleading provides such a great opportunity to get involved not only with a great team, but also in the community,” Laurel said. “In high school, the cheerleaders helped with cheer clinics for SES and SMS. In college, we cheer at several Georgetown events apart from games to get students and fans involved and excited about the Georgetown community.”
While she was excited about the possibility of cheering after high school, Laurel didn’t think she would get the chance to do it until she arrived at Georgetown University.
“I had always thought that cheering in college would be a lot of fun, but I didn’t think I would get the chance to do it until I arrived at Georgetown and made the decision to try out for the team,” Laurel said.
Laurel has been a member of the Georgetown University cheer team since her freshman year, and Coach Samantha Brewton has been her coach since the beginning.
“When she shows up, she is ready to put in work. She also positively pushes her teammates to step up and showcase their talents and pride,” Coach Brewton said. “Laurel is such a valuable member of this team. Her positive energy, dedication, skills and encouraging attitude are primary factors that help make the team shine.”
Being a member of the cheer team has presented many challenges, but the most obvious is the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the two-ish years we were virtual, it took a lot of self-discipline to remain in shape and to remember routines for when we were able to cheer again,” Laurel said. “Now that we are coming back after two years, cheerleaders have graduated, and our squad will be filled with new cheerleaders that will need to learn dances, cheers, and other skills.”
Some of her greatest opportunities on the Georgetown cheer team include cheering in Madison Square Garden at the Men’s Big East Tournament and in Chicago for the Women’s Big East Tournament.
As a cheerleader, Laurel sees her greatest strengths as stunting and teamwork and her weakness as tumbling.
For Laurel, the team is the part she most enjoys about the Georgetown cheer team. She also has really enjoyed cheering at basketball games in the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
“The players and fans create a great atmosphere that I will remember long after college,” she said. “We also have a bulldog as our mascot, and he’s pretty cute.”
Coach Brewton sees Laurel’s strengths in leadership and communication.
“Laurel assists in leading the team both on and off the field and court,” Coach Brewton said. “I completely trust her and know that she sets the example an outstanding leader should. She shows patience and care when working with others, especially when helping to teach the newer cheerleaders. She listens and guides in a way that makes others want to learn from her.”
Her work ethic and sense of pride and dedication are evident when she arrives at practice or steps foot on the field or court, Coach Brewton said.
“Laurel is an honest, intelligent, hardworking, trustworthy and energetic young woman. She brings positive energy and determination to get things done. She focuses and practices until she hits the mark,” Coach Brewton said. “Laurel does not cut corners when it comes to giving cheerleading her all, and that makes her truly stand out.”
Officially, Laurel started her cheerleading career as an SHS freshman and cheered all four years of high school. In high school, Laurel received two All-American nominations for cheer camp. She also was team captain her senior year.
Kay Duncan was Laurel’s cheer coach her senior year, but has known Laurel since she was young as she was friends with Kay’s daughter.
“She was always good spirited and positive. She worked well with the other girls and encouraged them to work hard and she was always on time,” Coach Duncan said. “One memory I have specifically of her is how much of a help she was since it was my first year as cheer coach. There were three other seniors too and they all got along so well and worked well together, and respected me as a new coach.”
Former Coach Kristina Castillo agreed that Laurel’s work ethic has always been “top notch.”
“I think all of her teachers and the sponsors or coaches of her chosen activities or athletics would agree,” Coach Castillo said. “We could always count on Laurel to give her best.”
Coach Castillo was Laurel’s coach for her sophomore and junior years.
“The most vivid memory I have of Laurel is when she broke her arm while practicing a back handspring for her cheer tryout,” she said. “Her first question, as she was still laying on the mat in the wrestling room being calmed by our head cheerleader Julia Barnes and the EMTs were stabilizing her arm, was, ‘What will I do about the physical tryout?’”
Laurel did not want to miss out on the opportunity to be on the cheer team, Coach Castillo said.
“Luckily, I had plenty of videos showing Laurel’s cheer abilities and the day after she broke her arm, she came in and rocked the interview panel,” Coach Castillo said. “Laurel’s tenacity and perseverance will carry her far.”
Coach Castillo said she was immeasurably proud when Laurel told her she was trying out for the Georgetown cheer team.
“Making the decision to go from Sabetha’s team to any collegiate team is a trial,” Coach Castillo said.
Before high school, Laurel also participated in Sabetha Elementary and Middle School Cheer Clinics and a few KU Spirit Days.
Laurel’s earliest memory of cheerleading is participating in KU Spirit Days with her middle sister, Ainsley.
“One year we cheered in the rain, but it didn’t matter because the KU cheerleaders were there with us and helped us to be peppy and cheer on the Jayhawks,” Laurel said.
Laurel also learned skills helpful to cheerleading when she participated in dance classes at Studio 1 Dance Center in Holton for eight years.
This is Laurel’s final year in her cheerleading career. She has begun work on her master’s degree in mathematics and statistics, while she finishes up her undergraduate degree in math and computer science. She is minoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA).
Through the years, Laurel’s favorite part of cheerleading is the team.
“I have been blessed to have great teammates and coaches in high school cheer and college cheer,” Laurel said. “We support, encourage, and help each other during and outside of practice, while also sharing a lot of laughs.”
More About Laurel
Laurel is a 2018 Sabetha High School graduate. During her time at SHS, Laurel was involved in cheerleading, volleyball, show choir, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was on the high honor roll, and was the valedictorian of her graduating class.
During her time at Georgetown University, Laurel has been a member of the cheer team, led the Georgetown Women in STEM organization as Co-President, was a peer advisor for incoming students, served as lead swim lesson instructor at the recreation center and is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
She is the daughter of Rick and Shelley Smith of Sabetha. She has two younger sisters, Ainsley, 19, and Harper, 16.