Returning to her roots

Oak Harbor High School cheerleading captain Ashley Parish is a talented performer who has overcome injury to excel in the sport she loves.

The senior has been a member of coach Pam Headridge’s purple and gold cheerleading crew for four years, has had her right knee operated on twice for injuries sustained while performing, and continues to wow fans and judges with her poise and talent.

She spent part of the fall of 2006 wearing a knee brace which kept her from doing some of the more intricate stunts the Wildcats are famous for, but by spring was back to 100 percent.

Was she ever back to 100 percent!

As a junior last spring, she competed in the National High School Cheerleader of the Year competition at Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C., and finished fourth.

“It’s a scholarship competition for first and second place, and I finished fourth,” she said.

Parish said cheerleaders can’t go to the national competition just because they want to.

“You have to be nominated and then put together a portfolio,” she said. “I sent my portfolio in and the committee selected the top 40 cheerleaders to go down to North Carolina for the competition.”

Once at the competition, the cheerleaders performed in a preliminary round and then the top 15 came back for a second performance.

“It was amazing and a good experience for me,” Parish said. “It was a huge event.”

Winning at the national competition is not a new experience for the Wildcats.

In 2006, C.J. Wong won the overall competition and was awarded a $2,000 scholarship, and Tyler Theriault was a second runner-up and won a $750 prize.

Awards just keep on coming. In July, Parish and teammate Courtney Tuttle won the All-American award at the four-day National Cheerleaders Association Camp at Western Washington University.

Parish won the Top Gun Jumper, Top Gun Tumbler and Top All-American awards at the camp.

However, her biggest award to date came in the fall when she was tendered an offer to become a college cheerleader at the University of Nebraska.

“I’m going to try out for the team in April,” Parish said. “If I make the team, I will get a scholarship.”

Cheering for the Cornhuskers will be a going home experience for the Wildcat senior.

“My whole family is from Nebraska and we moved here to Oak Harbor when I was a freshman,” she said. “My father is in the military and my parents grew up about 20 miles from each other in Omaha. I still have a lot of relatives living in the area.”

Parish said her life has been directed toward cheerleading for about as long as she can remember.

“Every Halloween back in Nebraska, I used to dress up as a cheerleader,” she said.

Parish is proof that childhood dreams can turn into reality.

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