Hammond coaches help Pom Squad refocus and win

NEIGHBORS

April 24, 2001|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

STUDENTS FROM Hammond High School spent part of spring break in Myrtle Beach, S.C. But they were not there to lounge in the sun or relax by a pool. The students are members of the Hammond High School Pom Squad, and they were there to compete in the Eastern Dance Association Invitational Finals on April 8.

The team qualified for the national competition nine months ago, at a dance camp at Gettysburg (Pa.) College. But when the squad reconvened in the fall, the dancers were out of sync. "We didn't do so well in the beginning" of the competition season, said junior Shondra Washington, a squad member since her freshman year. Hammond Pom Squad Coach Cheryl Akers agreed. "We had done two competitions in December and one in January. Things weren't going very well," she said.

Washington credited Akers and assistant coach Erin Scammell with getting the team back on track. "Our coaches sat us down and told us that we could do it," she recalled. She said Akers and Scammell had the students "refocus their efforts" and work more diligently at practices. "We don't just `have it.' We know that when we practice we have to work hard," she said.

In addition to the pep talk, Akers suggested adjusting the squad's routine. "Between the changes and the talk, they just got more motivated," said Akers, who has served as coach for six years.

The new attitude paid off March 17, when the squad got a boost at the statewide competition at Long Reach High School. The squad won the Howard County championship in the "long pom" category, first place in the "short pom" category and second place in the "props/novelty" category. "We were very surprised to do so well," Washington said.

The success bolstered the squad's confidence for the national championships, where it was one of 75 teams from 11 states. The Hammond team won second runner-up in the props/novelty division with a 2 1/2 minute cowboy-themed routine.

At the competition, Washington and two other squad members, co-captain Tracy Axel and Carrie Scarpo, both juniors, earned invitations to perform at the Pro Bowl halftime show in Hawaii next year, Akers said.

Washington said she is proud of the trophy her squad earned for the school, but she has not lost sight of the inspiration Akers and Scammell provided. "Our coaches really helped us. We went from mediocre to pulling it all together and doing well," she said. Akers said she was relieved by the squad's success. "We were not looking forward to driving all the way back to Maryland if we didn't win. It was a nine-hour trip," she said.

Other squad members are seniors Jasmine Evans, captain, and Kychele Boone, Allison Curtin, Jacquie Karadimos, Robyn Knight, Erica McLaughlin, Maria Pickett and Heather Taylor; juniors Kendra Graham and Melissa Hancy; sophomore Revae Tharps; and freshman Brittany Tilley.

Pupils have heart

Pupils at Jeffers Hill Elementary School recently raised nearly $9,000 by jumping rope and playing basketball. They participated in the American Heart Association's "Jump Rope for Heart" and "Hoops for Heart" fund-raising programs at the school, said physical education teacher Beth Brown. "We've been doing it for nine years," Brown said, noting that the school has raised $75,000 for the heart association during that time.

Some schools hold the events after hours, but Brown works the jump rope and basketball programs into her lessons during physical education classes. She wants her pupils to learn the importance of cardiovascular aerobic activity and to instill in them a spirit of volunteering and helping a worthwhile cause, she said.

The fund-raising aspect is voluntary, Brown said, but the outpouring of generosity and support from pupils heartens her. "I'm so proud of them. My kids have giant hearts," she said.

Parting words

Natalie Weikart, coordinator of adult programming for the Howard County Library, has seen unusual items inadvertently returned with borrowed books. "You won't believe what people use for bookmarks!" she said.

Bookmarks that Weikart has discovered include credit cards, napkins, utility bills, letters and postcards. Photographs go to the lost and found, from which few are claimed. "Why would anyone think to call the library if they're missing a photo?" she said.

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