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Landes fulfills dream by earning spot on Spirit Squad

by Tony Burns | August 18, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

El Dorado’s Emmaline Landes will fulfill a lifelong dream this season when she cheers on the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.

Landes earned a spot on the University of Arkansas 2021-2022 Spirit Squad earlier this year. All this after battling her way back from an injury sustained while practicing for a tryout while in high school.

“Being a cheerleader at a collegiate level has been a lifelong goal of mine,” Landes said. “I always loved to flip and do gymnastics when I was little, but began cheering in junior high and I haven’t stopped since.”

Landes went through the tryout process, which consisted of video and in-person skills and an interview. Video submissions of required skills was first.

“You had the opportunity to also include any elite stunting skills on your video. I submitted a hand-in-hand, back handspring up, front handspring up, rewind, flipping and spinning dismounts,” Landes said.

“Stunting was my favorite part of the tryout process. Invitations were then given by those who were selected to attend in person tryouts. In person tryouts consisted of two days of tumbling, stunting and a performance of a fight song and a chant.

“You had to receive an invitation after day one to return to the second round on day two. Due to Covid-19, we were split into small groups and we wore masks the entire time. I had to stunt with several partners and perform required stunts as they were given by the coaches. A few days later, interview rounds were held via Zoom. I was interviewed by several University officials, University of Arkansas Spirit Squad Director, coaches, and former University of Arkansas cheerleaders. A few days later, the 2021/2022 Spirit Squad was officially announced. I could not have been more excited.”

The former El Dorado cheerleader is a sophomore, studying Fine Arts and Sociology. Her career goal is to become an Art Therapist.

“I can continue doing what I love while helping others who may have experienced a trauma or injury just as I did my senior year of high school,” she said. “Art is an incredible aid in the recovery and healing process.”

Landes broke her arm in two places during her senior year while practicing her tumbling. She fractured both the radius and ulna in her left forearm and would have surgery to place two titanium plates with screws in both bones. It would be a temporary setback on her road, which began many years before.

“I really began working towards my goal of cheering in college when I started high school and spent hours traveling and in the gym. Beginning my freshman year of high school, I traveled three times per week to Ruston to tumble and stunt with my coaches Jay ‘Heavy’ Willis and Henry Johnson,” Landes said.

“Many nights were spent doing homework and eating dinner in the car with my parents. I also attended every college cheer clinic I could on weekends. Almost every Friday night after cheering for the El Dorado Wildcats, my parents and I would drive all night to attend college clinics in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana. Co-ed stunting is very different than all-girl so I took advantage of every opportunity I could to work with college partners and learn from university coaches.

“After my injury, I also worked with a physical therapist and personal trainer and got back in the gym as soon as I could after my surgery to regain my strength. Dr. Kenneth Gati, Clint Rhodes and Lacey Borosvski helped me recover and maintain my focus, push through all the pain and remain positive.

“Their support and encouragement along with the constant mentoring from Coach Heavy gave me the strength and courage to push myself harder than ever before to achieve my dreams. Even with all the challenges of Covid 19, my coaches helped me find ways to continue to train.

“Coach Tab Bledsoe helped me secure a large mat so I could tumble in my grandmother’s backyard because all the gyms were closed. Coach Heavy and Coach Hinton Foster came to my grandmother’s yard and helped me prepare videos to submit to college programs. Looking back, this was such a blessing because my grandmother could watch me train from her window while she was homebound due to the pandemic.

“I am so thankful for my coaches, family, teachers and friends who helped me and prayed for me along my journey. Especially all the staff at South Arkansas Orthopaedics, Physical Therapy of South Arkansas, 3sixty Personal Training and the best friend/coach an athlete could ever have - Jay ‘Heavy’ Willis.”

Landes is the second former El Dorado cheerleader to earn a spot on a squad in the SEC, joining Autumn Parker, who is cheering at Mississippi State.

“It’s exciting to have multiple D1 cheerleaders, especially two currently in the SEC,” said El Dorado cheerleading coach Tab Bledsoe. “We’re super excited to watch Emmy cheer for the Razorbacks. Woo Pig Sooie!”

For Landes, this football season will be the final chapter of one dream and the first page of another.

“I am really looking forward to experiencing Razorback football games from the sidelines,” she said.

“Since tryouts, I have already been privileged with so many amazing opportunities like practicing in Bud Walton Arena everyday. I am so excited for all of the opportunities that are yet to come.”

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