‘You have to keep pushing yourself no matter how hard it gets’: Cullman’s Ashton Story discusses her cheer journey

Former Cullman High School Cheerleader Ashton Story. (Courtesy of Ashton Story)

CULLMAN, Ala. — Former Bearcat varsity Cheerleader Ashton Story graduated from Cullman High School in 2020 but her cheer career was far from over. She went to Shelton State for two years before transferring to the University of Alabama last year and Ashton talked about her cheerleading career, starting with her time on the JV squad in ninth grade all the way to sidelines in Tuscaloosa.

“The experience was good. We have a competition team and during my time on varsity, we won state all three years. We learned how to progress each year in the competition, how to get better each year. We competed at Nationals and my junior year, and we got fourth. We learned how to get better by doing that,” Story said.

Ashton learned so much from her cheer coach, Erica Ball.

“She’s very supportive and encouraging to all the cheerleaders. She was kind of like a mother to us too. She was really good as my coach,” Story said. “She helped me get out of my comfort zone when it came to talking and getting loud because I used to be very shy. I was the captain my senior year and I had to give speeches at the pep rallies at the elementary school. She definitely helped a lot with that.”

Before going to the University of Alabama, Ashton cheered for two years at Shelton State and cheering there definitely helped her progression even more. She took away so much from her coaches at Shelton State, Brittany Crook and Ashlin Grey.

“I’ve always wanted to cheer in college and my coaches definitely helped support that. They told me I was capable of doing that. I went to Shelton State first because I’ve always wanted to go to Alabama, but I didn’t feel like I was ready for that yet. The coach at Shelton State used to cheer at Alabama and also cheered at Shelton. The Alabama coach that’s my coach now used to coach at Shelton State too, so Shelton State is like a feeding program into Alabama. I got a lot of experience while I was at Shelton State, and then I tried out at Alabama and made the squad.”

She added,

“They’re very tough coaches, but they are really good coaches. They push you out of your comfort zone and get you to do skills you never thought you’d be able to do. They have encouraged me to do a lot of different things throughout cheer. They are very good at building someone up to go somewhere in the future.”

Ashton talked about when she first set foot at Alabama and what that experience was like.

“I liked it a lot. It’s a lot different than Shelton State because Shelton was just a junior college, and you didn’t have to cheer for a lot of sports. I like it a lot in Alabama. I like cheering at football games because I’m a big Alabama fan. I like being on the field with them and just cheering for them. I’m also on the competition team in Alabama. It’s definitely a lot of fun and definitely a different experience, but I like it a lot,” she said. “The nerves were there, but it was a different type of nerves. It was an overwhelming nerve. It was a good, overwhelming feeling walking onto the field for the first time and seeing everyone in the stadium. You just look up and see the whole atmosphere of it. It’s definitely a different feeling and it was a night game the first game. They had a lot of cool lights out there, so it was a lot of fun.”

The Iron Bowl saw Ashton and Kacie cheering alongside each other, and Ashton talked about what it was like cheering on the same field as Kacie, plus their time cheering in high school.

“We cheered together in high school. We also cheered together when we were younger, so it was crazy how things worked out to where we were cheering at our dream schools. It was good to see each other at the game,” she said. “It was fun. We both like cheering a lot and we wanted to go further in cheerleading.”

Ashton gave some advice to those girls that want to be where she’s at right now.

“If you want to cheer in college, you have to keep pushing yourself no matter how hard it gets. Don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t do something. I remember going to clinics at Alabama when I was in high school and the thought that was in my mind was, ‘I’ll never be able to be on this team.’ I kept working hard for it and I knew it was something I wanted to do. You just have to keep working hard, go to different school and college clinics, get that experience, and reach out to coaches.”

Ashton gave her thoughts on how happy she is for Kacie that she’s cheering in college now.

“I’m very proud of her. I remember seeing her post that she made the Auburn cheer team, and I didn’t even know she was planning on trying out. That was very exciting. She also had that drive about her ever since we cheered together when we were younger. It takes a different person to love cheer that much. She had that drive about her to keep going, to keep pushing forward, and to cheer at her dream school. She was also a very hard worker. I’m very proud of her for cheering at Auburn.”

Ashton talked about some of her favorite memories during her first year at Alabama so far.

“One of my favorite memories would be my first time walking inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. I’d been to games and sat in the stands before, but whenever I walked in there in my Alabama cheer uniform, I looked up and saw the whole atmosphere of it. I was standing on the field, and it was giving me chills. I’m actually living my dream. When we ran out with the football team, that’s probably one of my favorite parts of the game. I love walking around the tailgates and getting asked for pictures from little girls with cheer uniforms on. I was also that little girl whenever I see an Alabama cheerleader, I’d want a picture with them, so it’s just crazy, like, now that’s me getting asked for pictures.”

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