Squad: Cheer WorkShop Saints, Senior Level 4; Hamilton High School Varsity
Class Year: High School Senior
College Major: Business (to be declared)
High School: Hamilton High School
Career Plans: Marketing
Family: Has three younger sisters, 15-year-old twins and a 13-year old.
Photos by Elite Photography
Styling by Laura Schell-Baker. Like Courtney’s makeup? Get it at Ooh La La Designs
Sponsored by The Greater Midwest Cheer Expo
A Quiet Spirit
By Lindsay Kottmann
“OK. Now, put your hand on your hip. Give me a lot of attitude,” directs the photographer.
Courtney Neal, 17, a senior from Fairfield, is posing in pretty silver dress for her MVC shoot at Elite Photography’s studio.
She laughs shyly. Attitude? That’s something she’s not used to giving.
Leaders don’t have to be loud and bossy — Neal is the perfect example of that. She’s a commanding leader on her Cheer WorkShop Saints all-star squad, but she leads by example: quietly working hard, and never complaining — ever.
That’s according to her coach, Sheryl Ripley.
“I couldn’t pick a better role model for the kids at the gym,” Ripley says. “We can ask her to do anything, and she accepts it. She’s definitely a true leader.”
Good leaders also bounce back from tough times and overcome obstacles — something Neal knows all about. The biggest setback she’s faced by far was not making the Fairfield High School cheerleading squad in 9th grade.
“I was so upset,” she recalls.
It was devastating for Neal, who had begun cheering at age 2 as the mascot for the Hamilton High School cheerleaders. She had been cheering for the Fairfield Youth Cheerleading Association ever since then.
Others may have felt sorry for themselves or simply given up after not making the squad, but not Neal. She realized what she had to do — improve her tumbling — and redoubled her efforts to get there. “I knew I had to do it,” she says.
That’s when she enrolled at CWS, and she worked hard cheering for their all-star squads through the 10th and 11th grade. This year, she transferred to Hamilton H.S., and by the time she tried out to be a Varsity cheerleader, she had a solid round-off back-handspring tuck. (When she had tried out in 9th grade, her skills had been limited to a round-off.)
She made the squad, and will cheer for the Bulldogs her senior year.
She’ll also continue to cheer for CWS this year, and will be the first cheerleader to graduate from their all-star program.
Neal is already considering several out-of-state colleges, and she wants to major in business and marketing. She loves math and manages her own bank account, which she fills up by working about 30 hours a weekend at McDonald’s, as she has for the past three years.
One thing is for sure, though: Wherever Neal goes to college, she intends to keep cheering.
“That’s her life,” says her mom, Cassandra. “That is her life.”