Oct. 9, 2012
By Mae Margaret Davis
Each year, the Auburn University Cheerleaders are comprised of unique individuals. They all come from different backgrounds and from across the country. Some of the members have years of experience in cheerleading, while others are trying it for the first time.
The members share a common bond in their love for Auburn. It isn't just about Athletics. They love everything Auburn represents. They love its creed. They love its mascot. They love the many rich traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
This year, the Auburn University Cheerleaders are 21 of Auburn's finest, and three of whom have special bond beyond their passion for Auburn.
Anna Walraven, Francie Harris and Evans Carr each grew up Auburn fans because of their parents. More specifically, because Anna and Evans' mothers and Francie's father were all Auburn Cheerleaders together during their days on the Plains.
It would be fair to say that when Kaye Walraven, Wayne Harris and Juli Carr were Auburn students, they had no idea their future children would one day follow in their footsteps, but they couldn't be happier that they did.
"I am not sure who is having more fun, me, Wayne and Kaye, or Evans, Francie and Anna," Juli said. "There is nothing better than watching our kids run onto the field at Jordan-Hare and knowing they are going to have such great friendships and memories like we do."
Now in grad school working toward a master's in special education, Anna is now in her third year of cheering and is head cheerleader on this year's squad. That makes Kaye the head cheerleader among the parents, a role Anna says gives her and her mom an even more unique bond.
"It means the world to me because I've always looked up to my mom and wanted to be like her," Anna said. "She always talks about how much fun she had with cheerleading and how much she loved it. I just grew up with that passion for Auburn and for cheerleading, and I've gotten to share these experiences with her."
Anna's mom echoes her daughter's sentiments.
"I am so happy and proud that Anna is able to cheer for Auburn," Kaye said. "I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to cheer for Auburn and loved every minute of it. Anna loves Auburn, and she loves to cheer. Serving as an Auburn Cheerleader has been the perfect place for Anna to give back to Auburn."
Wayne and Juli were partners back in the day. When Wayne's daughter was old enough to swim, Francie began to get a taste of her dad's glory days.
"He never really pushed me to (cheer), but he would put me up in stunts at the pool," Francie said. "I thought that was so fun."
Francie spent most of her days as a gymnast growing up. In eighth grade, the pressure of constant practice and competition began to take its toll, and the door was open to try something new.
"I had no idea cheerleading is where I would end up," Francie said. "When I expressed the slightest bit of interest, my dad encouraged me, and he said `I loved my experience, and I would love for you to do the same.'"
Just in her first year of cheering at Auburn, it was as exciting a moment for Wayne as it was for Francie when she took the field for the opening game against Clemson this season.
"All of her `firsts' have been almost as fun for me as they are for her," Wayne said. "From hearing her name called out at Cater Lawn to seeing her in her uniform for the first time, those moments were pretty special. Watching her cheer at the Kick-off Classic at the Georgia Dome was indescribable and made me so proud and so happy for her. I had a lump in my throat as I watched her run the Tigers on to the field for the first time."
As a football player and wrestler in high school, Evans had never planned on finding his niche on the sidelines at Auburn. Similarly to Francie, he heard encouragement from his mother and decided it might be the right fit for him, as well.
"I wanted something to work for, not just academically, but physically," Evans said. "I wanted to have something to shoot for, a goal. That was a big reason I tried out. It just seemed like a fun thing to do, really, and some way to contribute."
"His freshman year when he said he wanted to try out, I tried not to show too much excitement," Juli said. "It was such a great experience for me that I wish all of my kids could experience it. I only gave a little advice on the interview. He wanted to do it on his own, and he did."
While the parents have story after story they can tell their kids about what it was like when they were cheerleaders, they all agree that it is important to let their children experience it for themselves. Fortunately, they also know one of the greatest things about Auburn is tradition truly never dies.
"The best advice I could give is that being an Auburn Cheerleader is so much more than just sideline cheering," Wayne said. "It is about representing Auburn and the Auburn family in everything you do. It is about the squad that becomes your family and the rewarding experiences that this opportunity provides.
"I told Francie that in addition to being a skilled cheerleader, she had to reflect Auburn in her attitude and actions. Most importantly, I told her it would be some of the best times she will ever have."