Whether the football and basketball teams are having the greatest seasons in program history or struggling just to stay competitive, the Murray State cheer team is always there for support.
Senior cheer captain Allison Petterson is no different. For the past four years, Petterson has graced the sidelines, supporting Murray State teams through the good times and the bad.
Now her time is almost up, as Petterson is set to graduate in May. The story of her arrival, however, is different than most.
Petterson began gymnastics and tumbling in first grade. From that point on, the Orlando, Fla., native had cheerleading in her blood.
Throughout her younger years, Petterson played volleyball and soccer in addition to cheering competitively. As she made the transition to high school, Petterson was forced to choose between the three.
“It was a hard decision, but I just have this passion for cheerleading that I didn’t have for soccer,” Petterson said. “That kind of made the decision easier, and cheering for a school someday was always what I had wanted to do from when I was really little.”
Petterson cheered for Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, while also competing with another team outside of school.
When it came time to choose a college, Petterson said she knew she wanted to get out of Florida.
“I had picked five out-of-state schools I wanted to try out for,” she said. “All of my friends were staying in state, and I knew I just wanted to get away from home a little bit.”
Murray State was not originally on the list. Despite both of her parents graduating from Murray State, Petterson said she didn’t initially picture herself going nearly 800 miles away from home.
It wasn’t until her cheerleading tryout with Ole Miss when Petterson first considered following in the footsteps of her parents.
While visiting Oxford, Miss., to try out for the Ole Miss cheer team, Petterson said she knew it wasn’t the place for her.
“It just didn’t feel right,” Petterson said. “Something was off. So my mom suggested we make the drive over to Murray. I absolutely loved it. I tried out for cheerleading, enrolled in my classes and took a tour of the campus all while I was supposed to be in Oxford. Right from when I stepped on campus I knew this was the school for me.”
In less than a week, Petterson became a Racer.
“My mom got on the phone when we were on our way here and everyone was super nice and helpful,” Petterson said. “I didn’t even have a tour scheduled and the cheerleading coach came on short notice to do my tryout. Everyone made me feel welcome and it just felt right.”
Petterson has been a regular on the Murray State sidelines ever since then.
Her favorite memory came from the 2011-12 basketball season when the men’s basketball team earned national fame with a 23-0 start and a top 10 national ranking.
“It was so cool to go back home and have people stop me when they saw me wearing my Murray State gear,” Petterson said. “Prior to that season, no one had heard of Murray State, so it was awesome to have people noticing wherever I went.”
The cheerleaders joined the basketball team that March as it traveled to Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Tournament.
“The NCAA Tournament my sophomore year was something I’m so grateful I got to experience,” Petterson said. “Cheering at the NCAA (Tournament) is not something many people get to experience. Just being there and cheering the team on and seeing all the fans who traveled to the game was just something I won’t ever forget.”
Now as she prepares to graduate with her degree in marketing, Petterson said she doesn’t think she will ever fully be able to leave the cheerleading world behind.
She currently coaches a Special Olympics cheerleading team and plans to continue in that role after graduation. Petterson was approached about coaching the team by a former Murray State cheerleader last year. The experience, Petterson said, has been one of the most rewarding in her life.
“Those kids bring such joy to my life,” Petterson said, “I definitely see myself following through with that after I graduate.”
For now, however, Petterson said she is simply thankful for the experiences and memories she has made during her four years as at Murray State.
“It is such a privilege to be a Murray State cheerleader,” Petterson said. “I’m just glad I get to take all of these experiences with me. These years have been the best times of my life and there are memories I’ll take with me that I’ll never forget.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer