Kaitlyn Durham signs

Family and friends joined Ridgeland graduate Kaitlyn Durham (seated, center) at Hot Shots Cheerleading in Fort Oglethorpe to watch her sign on to continue her career at Shorter University. On hand for the ceremony were Gale, LeBron and Courtney Durham, along with Ridgeland head cheer coach Abby Bates and Mindy Poindexter of Hot Shots.

It will be a reunion of sorts later this fall when Kaitlyn Durham steps onto the Shorter University mats to cheer for the Hawks for the first time.

Durham, a 2020 Ridgeland graduate, recently made the decision to continue her cheerleading career with the Blue-and-White. She’ll also be cheering alongside her older sister Courtney, herself a Ridgeland alum, for the first time in about two years, something the younger of the two sisters called “super exciting”.

“It’s great and really exciting,” Durham said about officially becoming a college cheerleader. “It’s always fun to move on to the next stage and I’m just super-excited. Hopefully, (I’ll bring) a lot of laughs and smiles and lots of excitement and hard work (to their program).”

An exceptional all-around athlete, Durham’s skills and abilities were on display on the sidelines on Friday nights and especially during the past competition season for the improved Panther program.

And, like her older sibling, she also was a top-notch player for the Ridgeland Lady Panthers soccer team.

Ridgeland head cheer coach Abby Bates said it would be tough to replace Durham next season, but that she was very happy that her former standout will continue to do something she loves at the next level.

“Kaitlyn is a cheerleader that has exemplified everything it means to be a Panther,” Bates explained. “She goes above and beyond for our program and always has. She gives 110 percent in anything she does, she works hard and does everything we could ask of her.

“We’re extremely proud of her and we’re very excited for her to be able to start this new chapter as a Shorter cheerleader.”

Durham added that she was impressed with everything about the Rome school.

“It’s a Christian college, so I get to further my faith, as well as my schooling and my athletic career,” she said. “I really enjoy all the programs they have and they have a really good teaching program.”

Durham plans to study education with the hopes of one day becoming a special education teacher.

Shorter’s squad are five-time National Cheerleaders Association national champions. Last April, they placed third in the nation in the Small Coed Division 2 Advanced category.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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