July 17th, 2019

turpingwynlyn hannah riley lehnert and zyleee ipsonTurpin cheerleaders freshmen Gwyn Hannah and Riley Lehnert and sophomore Zylee Ipson relax prior to taking part in the Disney Christmas Parade in Orlando, Fla. Courtesy photoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


The worlds of Orlando, Fla., and New York City are significantly different from that of Turpin, Okla., but five young ladies from the tiny town got to participate on three national stages on three separate holidays recently.

“All five of these ladies tried out this summer at NCA Cheer Leadership Camp at OPSU for All-Americans, and the first four ladies made All-American Cheerleader,” Lisa Batt said. 

Batt is  a teacher at Turpin High School and mother of the fifth girl, junior Samantha Batt, who took home the prize of All-American Mascot from the cheer camp at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

Joining Samantha at the camp were fellow junior Ani Vazquez, freshmen Gwyn Hannah and Riley Lehnert and sophomore Zylee Ipson.

After the area cheer camp, Vazquez got to take part in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Hannah, Lehnert and Ipson were part of the Disney Christmas Parade in Orlando, and Samantha was also in the Florida city for New Year’s Day and the Citrus Bowl game.

Unlike the other girls, though, Vazquez had to do her part on the national stage in colder weather, record cold as a matter of fact.

“It was very, very cold. It was also the record cold for the whole entire Macy’s parade in history, which is really cool at 19 degrees,” she said. 

Despite this, Vazquez fulfilled a childhood dream in New York.

“It was really cool seeing all the people of New York come together all on the streets and cheering with us and to see all the spirit in the air. It was really cool,” she said.

Lisa reminded Vazquez of another cool part of her journey.

“Yeah I was on TV,” the junior said. 

After making the All-American team at OPSU, Vazquez consulted with Turpin cheer coach Tania Watson about how to get to the Big Apple.

“She gave me a code to register,” Vazquez said. “I got in, which was really cool because there was only a limited amount of spots that you could take.”

The trio taking part in the Disney parade had similar experiences.

“When I first went to Disney World when I was little, I looked up to those performers, so being able to perform in a Disney World parade, it felt amazing,” Hannah said. 

“It was a huge blessing and opportunity to be able to go,” Lehnert said. “Just knowing not that many people get to do that is a huge blessing.”

“For me, it was really cool to have that accomplishment to write down I’ve always dreamed too,” Ipson said. “The experience overall is really interesting to see how quickly we could pull everything together and just watching all the little girls’ face when we performed the parade.”

For Samantha, taking part in a New Year’s Day college football bowl game with mascots from across the country was likewise an awesome and fun experience.

“I learned from them, as well as we also had the coaches that taught us about being a mascot and different things we could do,” she said. “We even got to meet one of the people that plays Goofy in Disney World. In the actual performance, I felt so amazing, on fire. It was really hot there too, and I just had a whole lot of fun. It was one of the best experiences in my life.”

Samantha was one of about 50 mascots taking part in the Citrus Bowl celebration.

For Vazquez, her experience in New York started the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

“Throughout that whole entire week, we had really, really long practices to perfect our routine,” she said. “We had to perform our routine before the parade to the producers so they see if it was perfect enough for TV. Those multiple four-hour practices were definitely worth it after they give you the go.”

In addition to the many practices, Vazquez did get to explore New York itself, seeing many of the city’s landmarks such as Central Park and the 9/11 museum. This part fulfilled another dream for her.

“It was so cool just seeing everything and how New York is,” she said. “I also met a few amazing people there that were also in my group of awesome cheerleaders.”

Hannah said she, Lehnert and Ipson signed up for the Disney parade right after the All-American tryout.

“They actually sent us a video of the routine, and we had to learn that routine on our own,” she said. “Once we got to Orlando, we performed the routine in front of the judges that were the producers of the show. We got assigned a spot in the parade. Zylee, Riley and I, we got in the front part of the parade, which is a big deal because we were with a lot of seniors. That made me feel really special.”

Lehnert said she was pretty nervous about the Christmas parade experience because the group had to memorize two parts to their routine.

“I was really worried about having to perform them in front of the people,” she said. “I was really nervous at first, but once I found out I had made it, I was really excited and couldn’t wait.”

Ipson said she, Hannah and Lehnert made the choice to take part in the Orlando parade together.

“We all decided to go and experience the parade together and just have that memory together in life, and we had the placement process together,” she said. “That was really scary because they’re just sitting there staring at you, and if you mess up, it’s like they’re going to think I suck. It was hard because we spent a lot of time trying to make that perfect, but they ended up thinking we were okay and put us toward the front. It was really exciting and an honor. I’m glad we got to meet a lot of really cool people from all across the country some of us are still in contact with now.”

Samantha said from the moment she found out she had made All-American, she was extremely excited.

“We checked out to see what options there were for the mascots to go to,” she said. “We signed up for the Citrus Bowl, and we had to raise quite a bit of money, which we all helped with. On the way to Florida, I was pretty nervous because I was going to be alone. My family came, but I was going to be alone in the practice room. I was pretty nervous about that, but as we went on, I started to gain confidence and it was really, really awesome. I got to do a cartwheel on the 50-yard line which was really awesome.”

All five cheerleaders said they took home life lessons from their experiences.

“I learned if you really, really work hard enough for it, it is possible as basic as that sounds,” Vazquez said. “For the longest time, I wanted to make All-American, and I looked up to the girls that made All-American. I worked my butt off and finally did it, which was an amazing blessing.”

“I learned a lot, and I think time management was actually one of mine,” Hannah said. “I was already busy with our high school cheer stuff and having to fit that in. The parade performances taught me a lot. At the parade, I learned a lot of new motions and skills you could put in a cheer I never would have thought of on my own.”

“I learned how to stay positive through all of it,” Lehnert said. “I learned how to stay positive and put a smile on my face and be happy through all of it.”

“I learned how to appreciate the little things,” Ipson said. “It was stressful trying to balance everything going on and raising money to get to go on that trip.”

“I learned being a mascot is a lot more than just putting on a suit,” Samantha said. “Not only am I representing my school, I’m representing my hometown. I also learned a lot about mascotting, the different things we get to do and how we can do them.”

All five girls said if given the chance to take part in the national events again, they would do so, and both Coach Watson and the young ladies said it was great to see a small town like Turpin represented on a national stage.

“It’s just exciting to see the girls perform at camp and their faces when they were chosen as All-Americans,” Watson said. “It was nice to watch the videos and see. It was awesome. As a coach, it’s pretty awesome to see your girls go all over just representing our small little community. You’re so proud.”

“It was cool to be able to tell the people there, ‘Yeah we’re from Turpin,’ and about how supportive our community was about helping us raise a lot of money,” Ipson said.

“It was really cool seeing the community come together to help us achieve our dreams, and it was also really cool to be able to put the little town of Turpin out there,” Watson said. “It was cool to see people who I had no clue who they were recognize the town of Turpin from someone else they knew previously.”

Lisa said the team is not big on bragging on themselves, but the Turpin cheerleading squad, as a whole, is the two-time Gameday state champions in Oklahoma.

“These young ladies are known all across the state as some pretty phenomenal, hard working enthusiastic, spirit-filled cheerleaders,” she said.

Several of the girls had advice for those who get a chance to participate in any of the nationally-known in the future.

“I would tell them to relax and just be yourself while you’re performing,” Samantha said. “That’s one of the most important things and just remember to have fun and not worry so much about it.”

“I would like to tell them to stay positive because even with the traveling and the four-hour practices and all the hard work put into it is going to be worth it even though you might feel like you’re dying at practice,” Vazquez said. “The final outcome of what is going to be executed is going to make you feel so proud you put in that hard work.”

“Be confident,” Hannah said. “I think that’s a really big thing in cheerleading. Just be confident in yourself, and work for your goals. The work overall is very worth it.”

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