At Messalonskee High School, Kaitlyn Berthiaume was the only girl who wanted to join the cheerleading squad. But the reality of going it alone didn’t deter her from participating in her beloved sport. So she stepped up to the challenge – and the crowd couldn’t help but cheer for her too.
Kaitlyn is just one of the more than 700 students who attend Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine. The 18-year-old began her senior year in the fall of 2018, and she was looking forward to continuing her role as part of the school’s cheer team.
You see, Kaitlyn is passionate about cheerleading, and she had served on the Messalonskee squad since her freshman year. She told News Center Maine, “I love it. I love the sport.” But by the time she became a senior, the squad’s setup was seemingly not the same.
“A lot of the girls on the team last year weren’t able to do it this year for personal reasons or they just didn’t want to,” Kaitlyn continued. And so it turned out that she was actually the only person interested in joining the squad again. She therefore had a decision to make.
Yet for Kaitlyn, it was a simple choice. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll do it. I don’t care if I’m standing there by myself,’” she told News Center Maine. So she re-joined the squad and became its de facto captain under the guidance of coaches Annie Dobos and Maila Couture.
To prepare for cheerleading season, then, Kaitlyn attended practices with Dobos and Couture. And because the coaches outnumbered her two-to-one, it meant that they could pay close attention to the teenager’s stretching and workouts.
Kaitlyn’s coaches were therefore impressed by her dedication to the sport. Couture told Inside Edition, “It’s unheard of to only have one cheerleader, and for her to kind of just stick with it is amazing in itself.”
Of course, Kaitlyn did miss having a team around her. She told News Center Maine, “I love stunting, [but] you can’t really stunt with one person.” She did note one benefit of cheering solo, however. “There’s no one to compare me to so if I mess up, it’s just me. No one can know,” she said.
Kaitlyn also admitted that she was a bit scared to hit the sidelines alone. “I get really nervous; I’m always nervous,” she told Inside Edition. And her mom, Kim, said her “heart sank” when she found out that her daughter would be cheering solo.
“I really felt bad, with it especially being her senior year,” Kim said. Plus, her mother recalled, “She was so nervous at the beginning of the year that she didn’t know if she was going to be able to do it.”
But Kaitlyn defied both her own fear and her mother’s worries to serve as Messalonskee’s only cheerleader for the 2018 football season. And she received plenty of support along the way from the community at large as well as from her coaches and loved ones.
For instance, the 16-member cheerleading squad from Lawrence High School in Fairfield, Maine, invited Kaitlyn to cheer with them at a game one night. And one of the girls from the opposing squad could only laud her rival school’s sole cheerleader.
The girl from the Lawrence squad confessed that seeing a single cheerleader on the sidelines was “a little bit weird” and “unusual.” However, she said she “[thinks] it [is] amazing that she’s continuing to cheer by herself. So cool.”
And back on the Messalonskee sidelines, parents of Kaitlyn’s fellow students were also impressed by their children’s school’s only cheerleader. One mother said, “I so admire her for being able to be out there and lead those cheers. It’s amazing.”
Another mom added, “It’s tremendous. She’s been awesome at all of the games this season. It’s really inspired all the kids at our school; they’ve been able to get behind her and cheer a little bit louder this year. It’s been great.”
And along with the students in the stands, Kaitlyn receives cheers from her coaches too. Yes, coaches Dobos and Couture chant along with their solo cheerleader during football games. They also offer up plenty of support to their squad-of-one.
Even mom Kim shouts along with her daughter, as she knows all of the words to the cheerleading chants. Kaitlyn told Inside Edition, “I’ve been doing this for four years, and she knows just about all of my cheers.”
Kim added that the decision to cheer along with her daughter was a simple one. “I have to help support her any way I can… Whatever I can do to give her that support, and the crowd has actually picked up and helped as well,” she said.
Coach Couture also told News Center Maine that she was “shocked” at how the community came to perceive Kaitlyn. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. Coach [Dobos] and I definitely want her to know that she has a much bigger influence than she realizes,” she said.
Kaitlyn’s father further agreed, telling Inside Edition, “It’s very, very emotional and very, very inspiring.” As for the cheerleader herself, she has a simple bit of advice for anyone else mustering up the courage to go for what they want, even if it means going alone. “I get out there and I just smile, and I fake it until I make it,” she explained to News Center Maine.