CHEERLEADING: Perseverance pays off for Makayla Derryberry

Ridgeland cheerleader Makayla Derryberry signed to join the newly-forming squad at Georgia Northwestern last week. Joining Derryberry (seated, center) at the ceremony were Mason, Kelli. Brian, and Linda Derryberry, Ridgeland cheer coach Josh Hurst, Ryan Shipley, GNTC cheer coach Karen Stoker, and Ridgeland cheer coach Whitney Hollifield. (Messenger photo/Scott Herpst)

At first you don’t succeed, as the old saying goes, then try, try again. 

Just ask Makayla Derryberry.

After trying out and failing to make the cheerleading squad in middle school, Derryberry regrouped the following year and made the team on her second attempt.

Fast forward to today and the Ridgeland senior has succeeded, and them some. An outstanding four-year prep career with the Black-and-White culminated last Monday when Derryberry signed to continue cheering for the Bobcats of Georgia Northwestern Technical College in front of family and friends during a ceremony at Ridgeland High School.

“This day means a lot,” Derryberry explained. “Not only do I get to cheer and college and do what I love to do, I’ll be a part of the first competition group there after being part of the first competition group here at Ridgeland. In way, it will kind of be like starting over, but I’m excited. I can’t wait to meet everyone and be a part of it.”

Ridgeland cheer coach Whitney Hollifield called it a big day for Ridgeland cheerleading as well.

“To my knowledge, she’s the first cheerleader we’ve had go on to cheer in college,” she said. “It’s not only huge for her, it’s huge for our school and our program. Makayla is a fantastic girl, a wonderful cheerleader, and we’re all very excited for her.”

Derryberry, a cheerleader all four years at Ridgeland, was part of the school’s first competition squad as a sophomore. She was a member of the competition squad at RHS in every year of its existence and served as a captain for the past two years.

“Growing up, I was kind of a tomboy,” Derryberry said. “I played a lot of different sports as a kid, but once I started cheerleading, I fell in love with it. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Karen Stoker, who will coach the inaugural team at GNTC, said she was excited to have Derryberry join her new squad.

“I’ve had the opportunity to watch her cheer on the sidelines and in competitions and she just does a great job,” Stoker explained. “I’m excited for her and I’m looking for great things from her as far as leadership goes, especially as we transition into a new competition squad at Georgia Northwestern. She has strong cheer and leadership skills that are really going to help us build our program.

“I’m very excited for her, her family, and us as well. I can’t say enough good things about her.”

“Coach Stoker talked to Coach Hollifield and Coach (Josh) Hurst here (at Ridgeland) about starting up a new program,” Derryberry recalled. “When I heard about it, I knew it would be a good opportunity for me. I know I can learn from the experience (of starting a program) there like I did (starting a program) here.”

Derryberry said she plans to become a licensed practical nurse, and is considering studying physical therapy in the long term.