By Carrie Dillard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Mercedes Laster, a senior at North Laurel High School, will join the record 19-time UCA National Champion University of Kentucky cheerleading team for the 2012-13 season. She is only the seventh person from Laurel County to be accepted to the Cheerleading Wildcats and the second from North Laurel High School.
“It makes me feel good,” Laster said. “This is all I’ve thought about doing through high school, getting better to go on to college (level).”
Others to qualify for the UK cheer team in the past have been: Brian Elza, Laurel County; Holly Young Bundy, South Laurel; Jeremy Flynn, South Laurel; Corey Jones, South Laurel; Brooke Johnson, South Laurel; and Toni Blake Williams Greer, North Laurel.
Greer, who is also the assistant coach of NLHS cheer team, has seen Laster grow into a great leader.
“She’s ready. She’s right where she needs to be,” Greer said. “She has unbelievable leadership abilities at her age. I think that’s what drew him (UK Head Cheerleading Coach Jomo Thompson) to her.”
Greer accompanied Laster to the Spring Clinic tryouts April 19-22.
Laster competed against about 70 others to earn her spot on the white squad.
“I was nervous every day,” she said.
Greer said it was Laster’s “wonderful work ethic” that earned her the honor.
“She is an outstanding student and athlete,” Greer said. “She has all around what they were looking for, the whole package.”
As a member of the UK cheerleading team, Laster will receive $500 per semester and other possible academic scholarships.
Laster started taking gymnastics in second grade, and hoped in time to follow in her sister, Breanna Laster’s footsteps as a middle school cheerleader. Laster joined the squad in sixth grade and continued with cheerleading throughout her middle and high school years.
What she enjoys most about cheerleading is spending time with her teammates, especially her senior year.
“We got along really well. Everyone worked together this year,” Laster said.
Laster said the NLHS team survived a lot this year, including several injuries. And, throughout the past four years, she’s been no stranger to injuries herself, overcoming a torn meniscus last fall.
Laster said UK was her number one choice of colleges, although she applied to several others as a back-up plan.
At UK, she will work toward a degree in elementary education, a career she has always known she’s wanted.
Throughout her high school career, Laster has maintained a 3.5 GPA and will graduate from North Laurel High School on May 12.
She is the granddaughter of Larry Brummett and the daughter of Angel Laster and Fred Laster.