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The Path Chosen

This week’s Coed Cheer partners are at different ends of their college life. This is a really special year for each of them but for different reasons. You see they both love Cheering together for their university but one is a freshman and the other a senior. I am honored to introduce these two young people to the Mississippi State Alumni Family.

Rachel Steinwinder is a “Newbie” to the college life at Miss. State. She is a freshman seeking a degree in Kinesiology. She grew up in Biloxi, MS where she graduated from St. Patrick Catholic High School. Before being accepted as a Coed Cheerleader at Miss. State Rachel began cheering at St. Patrick’s in the 7th grade. She was a member of a competitive cheer team at Ace Cheer Company in Hattiesburg, MS for 3 years. That means her parents were driving her 70 miles one way up Hwy. 49 to work out there plus the trips to competitions. Rachel also danced at Kelli’s Steps School of Dance for 16 years which is most of her young life! Rachel says she is still a avid dancer.

When asked about the biggest influence in her life Rachel immediately brought up her Cheer Coach from Ace Cheering. “He taught me everything I know about cheering. I could not possibly be more thankful for Coach Brandon Roberts. He constantly pushed me to be the very best I could be. I would not be a college cheerleader if it wasn’t for Coach Brandon Roberts.”

Since she is a “Newbie” freshman Rachel says she really hasn’t developed significant memories yet cheering for State but she knows there will be many. Besides being a State Cheerleader Rachel said that sorority rush week was amazing. She joined Delta Gamma and looks forward to developing relationships there for the next four years. Rachel plans to become an Occupational Therapist after her college days are over.

Rachel’s Coed Cheer partner is at the other end of college life. Tony Ledwell is an extremely proud senior this year. Tony is an Alabama boy hailing from Winfield, AL (a Birmingham suburb) and graduated from Winfield High School. Like Rachel, he is working on his degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Sports Administration but he has the end in sight now as the anticipation of receiving the degree he has worked for and spent many sleepless nights studying as he takes care of the academic part of college life, working a job and cheering is drawing to a close. I can remember those long nights as I am sure many of you can. I know we would all tell Tony that the payoff is coming.

I asked Tony to tell me how he came to be a cheerleader at Miss. State. The following is his response to that question. I couldn’t possibly say it better than Tony did.

“ Throughout my middle/high school years I was very involved in sports with me playing every sport that was offered and just going from one to the next – never getting a break. My freshman year of high school, I had several friends that cheer so one day they wanted me to try to stunt (I was not very good at it at all) and the only thing I could do was a ‘back flip” as most people call it but in cheer terms its called a TUCK. I began cheering my freshman year of high school. I gave it another shot my sophomore year and after that I focused more on my own sports. It began to be something I missed because I happened to have fallen in love with the sport. This will be my 5th year of cheering in college – 3 years previously at University of Alabama Birmingham before coming to school here at Mississippi State University. Total, I have been in cheer for 11 years while 7 years have been cheering for schools.”

When describing the biggest influence on his life to date you start to realize how special Tony is and why is future is not in doubt. “The person who has had the most influence on me, would have to be my grandmother. After losing a parent to cancer you realize that some days will always be worse than others. It will never get any easier no matter how much people say it will. There are times that I think I can’t keep going but I know with the support of my grandmother I will be just fine even when I had some real doubts. I would not be the young adult I am today, doing the things that I love if it was not for my grandmother.” Wow Tony! None of us can possibly know how you feel but many of us have been and Tony please know your Mississippi State family will always be there for you.

Tony already has memories for a lifetime that taught life-lessons. “ I try to make every memory here at State one of my favorites. Although I am extremely blessed to be representing this school and other athletic groups it’s hard to lose your own focus and goals for your own team. As a cheerleader, we support every sport here at Mississippi State. One thing most do not see or realize is that as a cheer team we set our own goals at the beginning of the season and we work hard to accomplish that goal. In January of every year we travel to Orlando, FL where we compete among some of the best cheer teams in the nation. However, last year was a very tough season as we dealt with a lot of adversity – but isn’t that what makes a team even stronger? At teams it did not seem to even be possible to accomplish the goals that we had set. January 17, 2016 was by far my favorite memory cheering at Mississippi State. When walking off of that blue mat in Orlando, FL with a HIT for our routine in that very moment every argument, bruise, tear, injury, hour of practice, and performance was worth every bit of it. Hearing Mississippi State called out for Top 5 was our goal and we accomplished it even in the darkest moment. I knew right then that we had represented Mississippi State to the best of our abilities.

Tony plans to work in Athletic Marketing after graduation wherever that leads him but his long-term goal is to one day eventually become an Athletic Director either on a high school or college level. Tony and Rachel both see their opportunity to cheer at State as a tremendous blessing. Rachel is starting to explore what her cheer family. sorority sisters and the Bulldog Nation will grow to mean to her life. Tony on the other hand knows these things so well. The sands of the hourglass are falling fast for Tony (too fast many days) so he senses the urgency to take his role as the oldest and most experienced male cheerleader to task holding himself to a higher standard and expecting more from himself than others should have to give. He tries to be a leader for others but to always care about ALL of his family. Tony considers it as a special honor to cheer at State, represent the Maroon and White everywhere he goes and to wear those letters , MSU across his chest just a little while longer!

Tell Tony and Rachel hello and thanks when you see them. They are a part of “OUR STATE” family. When your at a football or basketball game this year and you see these two incredible young people out in front of you be sure you “STAND UP AND CHEER”!

Follow them at: Instagram: t.ledwell

Instagram: rachelsteinwinder or Twitter: rachsteinwinder