By Jeff Gallatin
For a young lady who initially didn’t know she was a candidate, Bay Middle School eighth-grade cheerleader McKenna Manderine ended up in elite company Thanksgiving Day.
McKenna was one of 400 eighth- through 12th-grade cheerleaders from around the United States selected to perform in the Spirit of America Productions cheerleading portion of a cheer-and-dance routine in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Her trip to New York started without her knowledge when her Bay cheerleading coach Helen Goldberg recommended her as a potential candidate for the honor.
“I didn’t know about it at first,” McKenna said. “I was in a cheerleading camp and coach Goldberg recommended me and three other girls as candidates.”
Spirit of America officials agreed with the coach and sent an application to McKenna for the parade routine.
“I really didn’t know anything until the application came for it and I got excited about possibly being able to take part in this,” McKenna said. “I’ve been watching the parade since I was a kid. I’ve only been cheering for about four years, so I didn’t ever think I’d be good enough for something like this.”
Her parents, Rick Manderine, a teacher and coach in the Bay Village City School District, and Erin Manderine, a teacher in the Woodridge School system, aren’t surprised by her selection.
“She’s always been a hard worker at whatever she does,” said Erin, noting her daughter is a straight-A student and also works hard in her dance classes and cheerleading routines.
“That’s just how she approaches doing things, I’m sure other people see that, too,” she said.
Rick, who coaches the Bay High School golf team and his son’s travel baseball team, noted McKenna’s spirit, willingness to learn and ability to work with others.
“She’s always been good about getting along and understanding what needs to be done to get the job done at whatever she’s doing,” he said. “I know she does well at whatever she does, but I’ll admit I got a little misty-eyed when I saw her performing this, knowing that’s my daughter.”
McKenna said the cheerleading went well, but admits to being nervous when going to perform.
“I had a pit in my stomach about it for a little bit and did think of all the people who would be watching,” she said.
Aside from the cheerleading, McKenna said she enjoyed many other parts of the experience.
“There’s just a lot to do and see in New York. We got to go to a lot of different places,” she said, adding Times Square was her favorite part of the trip.
McKenna said she also talked to a lot of people and made what she considers nine really good friends. Her friends at home also have let her know they are proud of her, she added.
“They decorated my house with signs and let me know they were happy for me,” she said. “Then after cheerleading practice (Monday night), I was talking with them and answering a bunch of questions about the trip.”
Since there is a cheerleading and dance portion to the Spirit of America performance, McKenna said she’d be open to switching to the dance portion of the event.
“I’ve been doing dance since I was 3, so that’s something I really enjoy,” she said. “There was one older girl who said she’s done cheerleading then switched to dance. So, yes, I’d like to if I got the chance.”