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In sideline and competitive cheer, Whitehall senior Claire English embraced leadership role

She intends on studying physical therapy and sports medicine in college.

WHITEHALL – High school sports are fleeting, but the lessons and memories can last forever.

In last Saturday’s Division 3 competitive cheer district meet at Grand Rapids West Catholic, Whitehall finished in sixth place, two spots out of qualifying for the upcoming regional meet.

Just like that, senior Claire English’s time as a Whitehall cheerleader is complete. She was a leader for both the Vikings’ sideline cheer and competitive cheer squads this school year.

Tough as it is for English to see cheer end, she has gained a healthy perspective that she’ll carry with her.

“Sports have taught me to keep an open mind — not only with other people’s ideas, but if they don’t show up to practice, to not jump to conclusions on why they’re not there,” English said. “It’s also taught me to be an older sister. Growing up, I was always the little sister and I’ve always wanted to be there for these girls like my sister was there for me.”

The 18-year-old English is the middle of Robert and Sara English’s three children. Older sister Madie is a 20-year-old sophomore attending Lee University in Tennessee. Younger brother Blake is a 16-year-old junior, who plays football and wrestles on Whitehall’s highly ranked teams.

A 3.7 student, Claire English intends on studying physical therapy and sports medicine in college, considering the likes of Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.

Karlie Sika recently wrapped up her first season as Whitehall’s sideline cheer and competitive cheer coach. Her first impressions of English were that she’s “super bubbly” with a contagious attitude.

Whitehall senior competitive cheerleader Claire English is shown during a West Michigan Conference jamboree on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Whitehall, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

“Claire is great with people, especially kiddos. She is hoping to go into the medical field, and with her gentle nature and kindness, I think she will excel at patient care or anything that has to do with kids. My son absolutely adores her,” Sika said.

“I am going to miss seeing Claire tremendously. Her smile and spunky banter she (brought) to practice, daily, always (kept) me laughing and uplifted. She has been a fundamental leader to this team and a constant support to the girls on and off the mat. She, along with all of the other seniors, have been the foundation in which I hope to build this program on.”

From English’s point of view, the difference between sideline cheer and competitive cheer is the drive. She said that sideline cheer is “fun and upbeat,” and while competitive cheer is those things as well but it’s where “we put in the work.”

For those who dismiss cheer as a “real” sport, don’t go there with English.

“I think the most difficult part of competitive cheer is getting in the right mindset. A lot of people joke about competitive cheer, but I don’t think they realize the amount of time, commitment, and effort that’s put into competitive,” she said.

“A really big stereotype is that we don’t do anything and our practices aren’t hard. Like I said previously, people don’t understand the amount of energy and determination that it takes.”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

English took part in all three rounds for Whitehall’s competitive cheer team: Round 1 (jumps), Round 2 (tumbling), and Round 3 (alternating backspot and side-base).

Sika said that on the mat, English is very driven to improve, she’s extremely coachable, and takes feedback very well. She was always focused on the benefit of the team as a whole.

“She is loyal and committed,” Sika said. “She is not afraid to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. When she signs on for something, she follows it through. Even when she was out due to injury, she was fully committed to the team – showing up to every practice and encouraging her teammates.”

English’s biggest inspirations are her parents, who have always taught her to put her best foot forward and finish what she starts.

English appreciates Whitehall District Schools for its commitment to students and athletes, including coaches, teachers, and staff for always being open to talk.

One of her big fears is letting her team down. Being unable to show up for her squad or for herself has always been on her mind.

“I really want to be remembered as a leader on my team when I graduate,” English said. “I think I can come across as mean sometimes and I don’t mean it like that. I just (wanted) to have a good senior season and I (wanted) all the girls to want it as bad as I do.”

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Keri Wade

    February 22, 2024 at 4:50 am

    Claire is an amazing leader to her team and her dedication and passion shows. Congratulations on an awesome season!

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