North Johnston duo excited to be part of first Barton competitive cheerleading squad

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KENLY — The next two years will be an exciting time for Barton College athletics with football returning to campus in 2020 and an on-campus turf stadium and new training facilities set to begin construction.

However, the school has also added competitive cheerleading with the first squad to compete in the 2018-19 school year. While not affiliated with the athletics department, the Barton cheerleading program is awarding scholarships and North Johnston High seniors Sara Liles and Autumn Davis are predictably enthusiastic to be part of the first Bulldogs squad.

“It’s exciting!” Liles and Davis said simultaneously during a signing ceremony at North Johnston on May 30.

Davis laughed at the synchronicity and explained: “We’ve been best friends since kindergarten.”

“It’s good to leave your name on something and be one of the first people to actually start something,” Liles said.

Both young women were cheerleaders for the Lady Panthers but are quick to point out that competitive cheerleading is more about gymnastics than cheering.

“It actually makes it a sport instead of just sitting around yelling because anybody can do that!” Davis said.

Liles added: “Most people don’t think of cheerleading as a sport and the rah-rah part probably isn’t, but in competition we work just as hard as anybody else does in their sport, if not more.”

The daughter of Sandra Hayes and Rickie Liles of Kenly, Liles said she was planning to attend Campbell University but Barton’s offer of a cheerleading scholarship swayed her to become a Bulldog. She plans to major in biology and pre-dentistry.

Davis, the daughter of Stormie and Robbie Moreno of Micro, said she wants to major in secondary English education.

While competitive cheerleading is what will bring them to Barton, both young women are excited about the chance to cheer on the Bulldogs.

“I’m excited for football,” Liles said. “I feel like it will make Barton grow, not just for the cheer but through the entire college.”

Davis grinned and admitted: “it’s exciting for the school but I actually like basketball!”