Like many kids growing up in the bluegrass state, Jenna Howard dreamed about wearing the blue and white one day and representing the University of Kentucky. That dream recently became a reality as she accepted a scholarship to cheer for the Wildcats.
“It has been a dream of mine to cheer at UK since I was a little girl, Howard said. “To have the opportunity to be a part of this prestigious team is an amazing feeling that I still haven’t wrapped my mind around.”
Howard has been a Kentucky basketball fan all of her life, she remembers standing in line waiting to meet players and get their autographs.
“I am a big fan of Kentucky basketball,” she said. “When the Kentucky men’s basketball team had their almost-perfect season before Kansas knocked them out of it, I remember standing in line waiting at Sheppard’s Fan Shop for a picture and autograph from several of the star players that year.”
Howard said when she first took a visit, she knew it was where she wanted to spend the next four years. She is not taking the opportunity lightly and feels she has found the perfect fit for her cheerleading career.
“It is an honor to have been offered a spot on this cheer team, Howard said. “I am grateful that I was one of the chosen to continue this great tradition. I am surrounded with teammates who want to work to the best of their ability and better themselves to represent such a phenomenal school. I am exactly where I need to be.”
Howard attended a tryout that lasted three full days. Her parents had to drive her back and forth to Lexington, and she was so nervous that she wasn’t able to eat, but her peers pushed her through.
“My teammates pushed me through each day,” she said. “They let me know I was not alone and they felt the same way. They guided me, they taught me, and they cheered me on when it was my time to shine.”
She admitted that she received a lot of support, even from people she didn’t know.
“I have received endless amounts of support from family, friends, and even people I do not know,” she said. “My parents basically carried me through tryouts because my nerves got the best of me each day I walked in that gym. I have received countless amounts of messages, prayers, and love and I am so thankful to have all of this support. I would not have been able to make my dream come true without the support I have received.”
Howard is joining the winningest program in college cheerleading history, but her time at North Laurel High School has prepared her for a winning culture. She has won district championships, state championships, and even a national championship.
“My high school cheerleading career definitely prepared me for what is to come at Kentucky,” she said. “It was difficult at times and we were always pushed to be the best we could be.”
Howard is paving the way for other kids who grow up in a small town and have big dreams. She plans to major in Elementary Education because of her interest in children and said she would love to be able to teach such young creative minds.
Tim Branstetter, Sports Writer for The Kentucky Daily