Cheerleader nominated for national award
Melody Ashley, 14, of Wesson received a finalist nomination for The Cheerleader Magazine’s Cheerleader of the Year award.
Ashley, a member of the Powerhouse all-star cheer team and the Wesson Attendance Center cheer team, was nominated for the award by her Powerhouse cheer coach Robyn Smith. She was among 16 finalists selected for the award.
The winner will be chosen from the finalists, based on the number of likes each nominee’s picture received on The Cheerleader Magazine’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Smith, who has been coaching competitive cheerleading for 16 years, said when The Cheerleader Magazine sent her a nomination form, she immediately thought of Ashley.
“They are looking for nominees who are outstanding on and off the floor,” Smith said. “You would have to know her story, but she’s always been a hard worker.”
At the age of 11, Ashley severed her right eye with a fly-swatter. She underwent multiple surgeries but still does not have vision in the eye.
Smith said the day of the accident Ashley’s mother called and explained what happened.
“Her first words to her mother when she woke up from recovery were, ‘Call Mrs. Robin and tell her I won’t be at practice today,’” Smith said. “That’s a work ethic you don’t find in every child.”
After the accident, Ashley had to sit out for three competitions, and it was questionable if she would ever cheer again, Smith said.
“I took so much time off, and I was just sitting at home,” Ashley said. “I couldn’t do anything.”
Smith said several months after the accident, a fellow member of the Powerhouse cheer team got hurt. Ashley found out and postponed her last surgery to fill in at a competition in Pensacola, Florida, she said.
Ashley said she jumped at the chance to get back on the floor.
“I think there was just kind of a revelation for her that you can get hurt doing just about anything,” Smith said. “She had that epiphany, where she said, ‘I’m going to do this,’ and let me tell you, she has not turned back.”
When Ashley returned, she was behind the other kids, but within a few weeks surpassed her skill level from before the accident, Smith said.
“I just wanted to be the best,” she said. “I wouldn’t let anybody stop me.”
Michelle Berch, Wesson Attendance Center cheer coach, said Ashley’s determination and hard work helped her rebound from the accident.
“She loves cheering,” Berch said. “She lives and breathes it.”
Smith said she nominated Ashley for the award based on her hard work, the way she excels on the floor and all that she has overcome.
“She studies the sport from all positions,” Smith said. “She’s like the baseball player that says, ‘what do you need?’ I can catch, pitch, left field, shortstop. She asks, ‘what do you need?’ I can base, fly, tumble, jump, whatever you need.”
The winner will be featured on the front cover of The Cheerleader Magazine and each nominee’s picture will be included in the magazine with a short biography.
Ashley said being nominated and then selected as a finalist is a huge honor.
“I’ve followed all the nominees on Instagram every year,” she said. “It’s just really surprising that I would be one of those girls.”