By Matt Goisman
NOBLE — Madison Taylor joined McAlester’s cheerleading squad as a freshman three years ago. She’d taken tumbling with junior high coach Tamara Roberts for several years and cheered for Roberts as an eighth-grade student, but varsity cheer was something else entirely.
And though Taylor made the Lady Buffs as a freshman, her first year literally came with a few bumps.
“I fell from a hill stretch and I got knocked out, went out to the hospital,” Taylor said Friday.
“I don’t remember it, don’t remember any of it, but I’ve tried not to let that happen. I’ve never been knocked out since.”
Even a brief bout of unconsciousness couldn’t diminish Taylor’s love for cheerleading. Now a senior, she’s been a Lady Buff four years in a row, going up in the air over and over again as one of the team’s top girls.
“I like heights, so it doesn’t really bother me,” Taylor said of her position, adding that to stay safe when she’s in the air, she tries to remember to “stay tight, pull your weight up.”
“I try not to imagine the crowd looking at me,” she said. “I just get through the routine.”
Born in Ada, Taylor moved with her family first to Krebs, then to McAlester. Taylor grew up in the McAlester Public School system.
As she’s gotten older and more experienced, Taylor said her responsibilities as a Lady Buff have changed. Those responsibilities include helping the younger cheerleaders, both as a teammate and as a friend.
“I’m responsible for making sure the girls are doing stuff right, making sure they’re playing attention,” Taylor said. “Your freshman year, you’re told that. I didn’t really know my senior cheerleaders that well (when I was a freshman), but I’ve tried to that reverse that.
“I don’t want to see everyone not like someone. There aren’t really any cliques. We all like being together.”
Coach Ashlee Shumway said the younger Lady Buffs have especially responded to Taylor’s work ethic and willingness to improve.
“She needed to work on her explosiveness, for instance, so she came to Summer Pride, and we set up some sport-specific drills for her,” Shumway said.
“She’s just always willing to put in the extra effort. Anything that she maybe lacks a little bit in, she’s going to do what it takes to get where she needs to be.”
Taylor’s competitive season ended Saturday with a trip to the 5A state cheerleading meet at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. It was Taylor’s fourth trip to State in as many years, and her last big performance with the Lady Buffs before she goes to college next year.
Taylor hasn’t picked a college yet, but she’s already taking two college-level classes — Composition I and a post-Civil War American history class — at Eastern Oklahoma State College in McAlester. Wherever she goes, Taylor’s likely to study a field related to education, as she said she’d like to be a kindergarten or special education teacher.
“Both of my parents are teachers,” Taylor said. “My mom teaches kindergarten, and I really like children.”
Wherever Taylor ends up, she said she’s unlikely to try to walk on as a cheerleader, at least as a freshman. She wants to focus on her school work while leaving herself enough time to enjoy the college experience.
After that, she could return to teach in McAlester, but at the very least she’d prefer to stay in Oklahoma.
“I like that it’s a small town,” Taylor said of McAlester. “I’m not a big-town person.”
Taylor said she’ll most miss her teammates and getting to perform. With basketball season awaiting in the winter and then a potential stunt scrimmage season in the spring, the performances haven’t quite ended for Taylor.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.