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Norwin Knights to host alumni cheerleader game Sept. 5

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Some of Sandy Daugherty's fondest memories of attending Norwin High School in the 1960s were during her junior and senior years as a member of the cheerleading squad.

The 1965 Norwin graduate and other former cheerleaders are about to get a chance to once again rouse fan spirits.

The first alumni cheerleader football game is scheduled for Sept. 5 during the Norwin Knights' home game against the Hempfield Spartans. So far, 30 former Norwin cheerleaders have signed up for the opportunity to cheer alongside members of the varsity, junior varsity and freshman squads.

“I cheered during the bobby-socks and saddle-shoe era,” said Daugherty, 66, of Irwin. “And I really enjoyed the experience. It made my high school days a lot of fun.”

Adding to the excitement of getting out on the football field to cheer again is the fact that she will be doing it alongside her daughter — Darcy Riazzi, a Class of '95 Norwin cheerleader — and her granddaughter, Mckenzie Daugherty, a sophomore who is a member of the current varsity squad and competitive team.

“I'm very proud that we have three generations of cheerleaders in our family,” Daugherty said. “There's no way I could pass up this opportunity to be out there with them.”

Proceeds from the entry fee paid by participants will support Norwin's cheerleading squad and the high school's Cheerleading Competitive Spirit Team, which finished fourth in the state at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championships in Hershey in January.

The idea of bringing former cheerleaders back to support the current squad developed from a conversation between Patty Zaken and her daughter, Lindsey, a 2011 Norwin graduate who cheers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“One of my daughter's friends on the IUP cheerleading team graduated from Blairsville and mentioned to her that they raise money there with an alumni football game,” said Zaken, of North Huntingdon.

Zaken contacted Norwin cheerleading coach Linda Rundy, with whom she remained friends after her daughter graduated, and asked “if we could raise money by doing something like they do in Blairsville.”

“I thought it was great idea,” said Rundy. “So I took it to the boosters board, and they agreed to let us try it out.”

Anita Muenk, whose daughter Emily Leverich, 17, is on Norwin's squad, is helping to coordinate the event.

“The women who have signed up to participate in the alumni game have said they really missed cheerleading after they graduated and are really excited about coming back,” Meunk said.

Daugherty said she felt a tinge of trepidation at leading the crowd in cheers after all these years.

“Back in my day, the most we did was cartwheels and splits,” she said. “But these girls are like gymnasts. But I'll show up for practice and do my best.”

Alumni participants will be outfitted in shorts and wear the commemorative T-shirt and hair bow they will receive.

Rundy, who was a cheerleader at South High School in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, said she plans to teach the alumni “a few cheers” at the practice session scheduled the night before the game that will not require the athletic prowess today's cheerleaders display.

“This is about rekindling old friends, making new ones and having fun while we raise a few dollars for the squad,” said Rundy. “We hope to continue doing it every other year, and I have no doubt that a lot of the girls who are cheering now will be looking forward to coming back after they graduate.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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