Cheerleaders move beyond the mat


The Wesleyan cheerleaders build pyramids during warm ups at the NAIA national competition. The pyramid on the left includes Zack Lanham, Isaac Johnson, and Ezekiel Johnson on the bottom.

Many Texas Wesleyan University cheerleaders don’t only cheer for Ram sports.

They play them as well.

Cheerleaders Zachary Lanham, Demi Dotson, Sachiko Jayaratne, and Ezekiel and Isaac Johnson show their Ram spirit as they balance cheer and playing on multiple Ram athletic teams, as well as participate in academics and student life.

“Good time management and a support system that reminds me when stuff is due is the basis for a student athlete,” said Lanham, a sophomore criminal justice major. “Friends are very important.”

Lanham was excited to add football to his already busy schedule this semester.

“This is my third year cheering, only my second at Wesleyan, and I have six years of football experience prior to Wesleyan,” Lanham said. “Football is my favorite of the two sports.”

Remaining a competition cheerleader gives Lanham the ability to participate in both sports.

“I am a competition cheerleader, so I won’t cheer at the games, and won’t be on the traditional team.” Lanham said.  “I will only cheer at qualifying rounds and nationals. I can play football through the year and the practices do not overlap.”

The Johnson twins were also eager to add football to their roster this fall. They attended all meetings and practices, but due to eligibility reasons, they are unable to continue to play.

 “I recently found out that we were out of eligibility, so sadly we don’t participate in football any more,” said Ezekiel Johnson, a senior history major.

So they are sticking to cheering and playing basketball.

“It’s pretty tough balancing my time between sports and academics, but as long as I manage my time I can get it knocked out,” Johnson said. “My Google calendar keeps me up to date on upcoming  assignments, practice times, and work. Without that calender, I would be behind for sure.”

Johnson has been cheering since the start of his college career at Kilgore Junior College five years ago, but brings his true passion to the basketball court. 

“I love basketball,” Johnson said. “My twin and I have played each other since we were kids. We pushed each other to get better, and the love for the game got stronger as well.”  

Unlike Lanham and Johnson, Dotson, a junior psychology major who both cheers and plays for the Lady Rams’ softball team, does not have a preference between the the two sports.

“I have cheered competitively since I was about five and started playing softball in my teens,” Dotson said. “I do not have a favorite sport. That is why I chose to continue to play both in my collegiate career.”

Dotson relies on the support of her coaches to maintain her busy lifestyle.

“Coach (Shannon) Gower and coach (Carolyn) Ikens work well with my schedule,” Dotson said

Dotson also relies on her ability to prioritize her various responsibilities.

“During season, games trump practice for any sport. If there is a game on the same day as practice, or a competition on the same day as practice, I don’t go to practice,” Dotson said. “The only time the two conflict during season is if the cheer team goes to nationals, I usually miss two to three games in the beginning of softball season.”

The Ram cheerleaders are looking forward to competing at nationals again in the Spring. Follow them both on and off the mat at