BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — Maumee senior Emma Armstrong recently signed a national letter of intent to continue her cheerleading career while continuing her education at Concordia University.
The daughter of Todd and Heather Armstrong, younger sister to 21-year-old Kendall and big sister to 15-year-old Noah, Emma was a four-year member of the Panthers squads and a three-year member of Maumee’s dance team.
Armstrong actually grew up participating in gymnastics and said she “was never super interested in cheerleading until high school.”
“My friends were cheerleaders, but I was more interested in gymnastics because that’s what I was doing when I was younger,” she said. “In eighth grade, my best friend convinced me to try out with her and that’s how I got started.”
Specifically, Armstrong cheered for the freshman and junior varsity teams during her freshman and sophomore football seasons and cheered varsity as both a junior and senior.
She was also a three-year JV basketball cheerleader and was on the Panthers competition team all four years.
“I enjoy the fierceness you have to have to compete but also the energy that surrounds football games,” Armstrong said. “I truly just love everything about the sport – the tumbling, stunting and dancing.”
Success using those tools came in handy during Maumee’s competition seasons, as the Panthers made it to the state competition during all four of Armstrong’s seasons.
In 2016, Maumee’s competition team placed 16th in the state and only improved from there.
The Panthers placed ninth in the non-tumbling division during the 2017 competition and fifth in the 2018 stunting division.
This season, Maumee not only placed seventh in the traditional division, but it also took fourth in the game day division.
“Emma has been an influential member of the competition squad over the four years, as we elevated our level of difficulty,” said Maumee cheerleading coach Emily Ery. “She helped our team move up a division each year, adding tumbling, stunting and a second division of game day. Emma works hard to improve her skills every day, pushing to increase her tumbling every year.
“She is a ‘utility’ member when it comes to stunting. She can fly, main base and secondary base. She strives to be her best at any role she is assigned. Whether it is the start of the year, the week of a competition or even the night of a football game, Emma puts forth full effort – without complaint – to make any new stunt sequence a success. Her attitude and commitment to the sport shine every day in practice, on the sideline and on the competition floor.”
This type of commitment takes training of multiple kinds.
“It takes as much, if not more, mental preparation as physical preparation to not only compete but to place well at such a high level,” Armstrong said. “We start conditioning and lifting in the summer and continue to do so until we are done competing.
“We start building our routine in the fall and continue to improve it all season, sometimes even making changes the day of a competition.
“It may look easy, but it really does take a lot more time and effort than most people think.”
Without much rest in between, Armstrong has already made a familiar move to another athletic passion – softball.
She helped last year’s varsity team to an 11-win season after contributing to six junior varsity victories as a freshman and sophomore.
“I have been interested in softball for as long as I can remember,” Armstrong said. “My family is very into baseball and softball. I started playing when I was around 8 years old. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of catching a ball or running the bases.
“I’m really excited for softball to start now that the cheer season has come to an end. My goals for my last season are just to have fun and improve as a team.”
Panthers softball coach Brian Jones called Armstrong “a wonderful kid.”
“She has worked hard on her overall game,” he continued. “She really worked hard last year to be a good slap hitter. She was used mostly as a courtesy runner for Alyssa Ellis and she took ownership of that role and did a great job.
“Emma is a very smart and fast baserunner and we hope she can break through to be in the lineup. She always has a smile on her face and is a great teammate.”
Armstrong currently carries a 3.6 GPA and has also participated in the Conspiracy Club, Interact and Link Crew in addition to cheerleading, dance and softball.
“A lot of work has gone into my academic success, because my parents and my coaches have always made sure I put school before sports,” she said.
Her road to Concordia University began when she attended an Ohio cheerleading combine over the past summer.
“Concordia was one of the schools that showed an interest in me,” Armstrong said. “It was a big struggle for me when I started thinking about where I wanted to attend, because I was fortunate enough to have so many options available to me.
“Ultimately, I visited the campus twice, along with some others, but I really liked Concordia.”
Armstrong said she plans to major in athletic training and make that her career in the future, with the ultimate goal of working for a professional sports team.
She credited her father with being the biggest influence on her life thus far, saying, “He is always positive and supportive toward my siblings and me and has showed me I can be whatever I want to be – no matter what.
“He went to college twice because he wanted to follow a different career path and makes it sound easy when that is something a lot of people would like to do but can’t or don’t. He has also supported all of my dreams and goals and made sure I knew I had no limitations if I put 100-percent effort in everything I do.”