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Published August 30, 2012, 01:19 PM

Grand Forks cheerleader has eyes on London

Seven years ago almost everything Teaerica Rangel owned was washed away during Hurricane Katrina — everything but her passion to become a top-notch cheerleader.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald, INFORUM

Seven years ago almost everything Teaerica Rangel owned was washed away during Hurricane Katrina — everything but her passion to become a top-notch cheerleader.

Years of training finally paid off for the Grand Forks Central High School junior when she was named an All American during a Universal Cheerleading Association camp this summer. The honor came with a gold medal and a chance to perform during London’s New Year’s parade.

Her mother, Tesserae Eley, couldn’t be more proud.

“It is such an amazing opportunity for her,” she said. “She could go to London and represent the United States.”

Rangel, 16, would be one of about 30 girls the UCA is sending overseas — a trip costing about $5,000. More than 500 high-school cheerleaders are expected to perform in the parade.

Starting over

Rangel’s passion for cheering began when she was very young.

“I watched every cheerleading tape and show I could when I was a little girl,” she said.

Growing up in Biloxi, Miss., Rangel was able to start cheerleading in third grade. But the arrival of Hurricane Katrina cut her elementary-school cheering career short.

“Everything washed away,” Eley said. “It was so much worse than they would show on TV.”

She brought her two daughters back to her hometown of Grand Forks to stay with family.

“There’s no place like home to start over,” she said.

Despite the tragedy, Eley said Rangel’s passion for the sport never wavered, even when moving back to North Dakota meant Rangel would have to wait until high school to start cheering again.

With cheering put on hold for a few years, Rangel spent her free time perfecting her moves.

“I would sit at home and stretch, do cheers from when I was little and work on jumps and kicks,” she said.

As soon as the opportunity to cheer again presented itself — during Rangel’s freshman year — her mom said she seized it.

“She took off on it right away, and she was accepted to the varsity squad as a freshman,” Eley said.

Going nonstop

In addition to being named an All American, Rangel received another surprise this summer. Her coach named her one of the squad’s two captains.

“I was shocked,” Rangel said. “We had two returning seniors so it’s a big honor.”

The honor required her to pack even more into an already tight schedule. When she’s not on the sidelines of football and basketball games cheering, or planning the squad’s state competition routine, Rangel also is busy with ROTC, participating in track and field and maintain-ing her place on the honor roll.

“She goes nonstop, seven days a week,” her mom said.

Eley describes Rangel as very responsible, paying for her own cellphone, car and car insurance through her job at McDonald’s, where she’s worked for the past two years.

Though summer allowed Rangel to pick up fulltime hours, paying her own bills left her with little money for the trip.

This is where Eley, a single mom, said she hopes the community can step in and help.

An account for Rangel’s London trip has been set up at Alerus Financial under her and Eley’s names.

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Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to bjewett@gfherald.com.

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