With competitive cheer and dance expanding, those squads — in high school, junior high and, more and more at the college level — what was once an adjunct to other sports like football and basketball, has evolved into a sport on its own. And, with that, college coaches are starting to recruit and offer scholarships and other incentives just like the traditional competitive sports.
On Friday, April 3, senior cheerleader Kenneth (Skylar) Jewett became the first from the highly-successful spirit programs at Bryant High School to sign a letter of intent for just such a scholarship, accepting an offer from the University of Ozarks in Clarksville.
Jewett, the son of Ken and Keisha Jewett, is a three-year member of the Bryant varsity cheer squad and was named to the all-American team in 2013. He’s been picked for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star team this year. He’s also been a member of the Cheer Time Revolution All-Star Level 5 co-ed team for the past two years.
In his three years, he’s contributed to an unprecedented run of success for Bryant cheer. The team won 5-7A State championships in 2013 and 2014, garnered an NHSCC National championship in 2014, and the 2015 NHSC World championship.
“I’ve had other cheerleaders go to college and cheer but this is the first for me to be scholarshipped and have a signing like this,” said Bryant coach Karen Scarlett.
“Last October, I was at Cheer Time Revolution and the coach for Ozarks came up and told me she was recruiting for the upcoming year,” Jewett related. “I wasn’t able at the time but she started watching us and she knew I was a senior. She watched me do my skills. She had me do some jumps and some stunts. Then she asked me if I could ever come up to the college to practice with the team that she has at the moment and I did.
“I liked practicing with the team and talking to everybody,” he added. “I had a day where I went around and looked at the college and I really liked it there. So I made the choice that I wanted to go there.
“I thought about going to Fayetteville or somewhere else but I wanted to go to a small college that had competitive cheerleading, that doesn’t compete just once a year; and to cheer without just being on the sidelines.”
Asked about when he became interested in cheering, Jewett related, “I think I was around 8 years old. My cousin started it before I did and I would go and just watch her do it. I said, ‘This looks like a lot of fun. I’m going to try it myself.’ And, obviously, I’ve been doing it every since.”
“He cheered here at Bryant in middle school and ninth grade and he came to high school and it was the first year for me to have a co-ed team — one boy on a team with 29 girls,” Scarlett said. “To me, that’s either a rough job or an easy job, depending on how you look at it.
“But I’ve seen Skylar really grow from his sophomore year to his senior year,” she asserted. “He really learned a lot. He’s just become a great cheerleader. He has really learned how to strengthen his body so he can do the co-ed cheering, the co-ed stunts. He’s just become a great member of our team. We’re excited that he’s been here for a State runner-up and two State championships, a National championship and this World title. We’re excited to see him move along in his career and see how well he does.”
Jewett plans to pursue a degree in Health Services and Physical Education. “I would like to coach for a school or maybe own my own gym someday,” he said.