While most of her classmates were sound asleep at 5:30 a.m., their alarm clocks silenced by a holiday break from school, Zenobia Lewis' day was just beginning.
And 200 miles from home, no less.
In a little over five hours, the Old Mill junior would go from the serenity of her New York City hotel room to the hustle and bustle of Herald Square and Macy's 65th Thanksgiving Day parade.
Lewis, 16, is one of more than 500 girls performing in today's nationally televised event, an honor she won after acquiring All-American status at a National Cheerleading Association camp in July.
Only four girls out of 350 were chosen All-American at the four-day competition at Salisbury State.
"I was so excited, I starting crying," said Old Mill cheerleading adviser Tina Simms, whose varsity team, captained by Lewis, won an award for excellence.
The Patriots qualified for the nationals in Dallas, but a shortage of money is preventing the squad from making the trip.
But the only thing that could have stopped Lewis from taking part in the Macy's parade was Lewis herself. Given the choice of participating in the Cotton Bowl in Texas, the Hula Bowlin Hawaii (both in January) or the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Ireland, she opted for a location closer to her family.
"But she said if she gets another chance next year, she'll probably go to Hawaii," Simms said.
Lewis' father, Keith Blowe, said: "We gave her the option to pick whichever one she wanted. This way, we get the opportunityto see her."
Lewis rode the train to New York last Friday. Her parents joined her this morning, and the trio will return home tomorrow.
"I've always loved New York. I love the action," Lewis said earlier in the week. "It's been wonderful. I'm having a great time."
Her visit included a couple of five-hour practice sessions and a professional dance class last Saturday. The following day brought a trip to the Statue of Liberty, and more work.
"The staffers knew how tired we were. We were supposed to practice from 2 to 5 p.m., but instead we went from 2 to 3:30," Lewis said. "But then we had a night practice from 8 to 10:30."
Lewis and her partners rode a shuttle to Central Park this morning, the starting point for their march to Herald Square. Dressed in a red sweater and skirt, she helped form a human American flag as part of the "Salute to America" theme. Hers was the largest performing group in the parade.
On reaching their destination shortly before 11 a.m., they began a spirited cheerleading and dance routine.
The daughter of parents who serve in the U.S. Army, Lewis is accustomed to traveling around the United States.
She resided in Massachusetts, Texas and Indiana before making her second stop in Maryland as an eighth-grader.
The moves "make it a lot easier for me to adapt to other people. I have no problems opening up to others," Lewis said.
Her first exposure to cheerleading came as a member of Old Mill's junior varsity team, where she stayed for half her freshman year before rising to the varsity ranks.
"It's very unusual for me to put a freshman on the varsity, but she's that good," saidSimms, a 1986 Old Mill graduate.
It's equally rare for a junior to captain the squad. "I pick the captains myself, and I usually stickwith seniors. But even if the other girls were to choose, they'd select her," Simms said.
"She's so coachable and likable, a really good kid. You can't ask for more than that."