Cheerleading is in the DNA of two sisters who have spent most of their lives in this area and now are part of the Miami University squad.
Mackenzie and Maggie Eason have not only spent most of their lives living in this area, but have spent most of that time learning cheerleading from their mother, who is a former Talawanda High School and Miami cheerleader herself.
The sisters were born in North Carolina but the family moved back to Ohio when were young and their parents opened a cheer gym.
Janna (Pyfrin) Eason and her husband, Chad, moved to this area, finding a home in the Ross area, so while their mother was a Talawanda cheerleader, they both led cheers for the Rams, which created some interesting family dynamics but now they cheer side-by-side for the RedHawks, at their mother’s alma mater.
Mackenzie is a sophomore at Miami while Maggie is a freshman.
They started cheering with their mother as coach at age 5 and she remained their coach until Mackenzie was a junior in high school and Maggie a sophomore. Now, Janna is the cheerleading coach at Talawanda and gets to watch her daughters perform on the college level.
She admits to a little bit of coaching for her daughters even now, however.
“I will watch and send a text saying, ‘You could do this’ or ‘You might try that,’ ” she admitted, but said both girls know enough about coaching to work things out themselves. “It’s hard to turn it off. I really try. We do it to each other. Both coached at the gym growing up. Both are wonderful coaches and work well with kids.”
Mackenzie coached last summer at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp and Maggie has coached at school.
Being members of the same cheer team allows the sisters to continue doing something they love together but their life plans, at least now, figure to take them apart after college. Mackenzie is a business major on Miami’s Oxford Campus, while Maggie is studying forensic sciences on the Hamilton Regional Campus in hopes of someday joining the FBI.
“The biggest benefit cheering has taught me is working with people. Being in business, I work in teams a lot. Athletics helps me be a better communicator,” Mackenzie said. “A lot of things transfer. All of my best friends I cheered with at some time.”
She said she has always been a big fan of college football and the chance to see the game from the sidelines was a big part of her college decision. It was especially nice that Miami played at Notre Dame last year, which was a dream come true for her to be on the sidelines there with the Golden Dome and all the tradition.
“I was just in awe standing on that field,” she said, admitting she wore a Notre Dame shirt under her uniform.
That experience was shared by the family after their parents got tickets to the game, allowing Maggie and younger brother, Joseph, to also attend.
“I thought they only got two tickets. I kept saying I was going,” Maggie said, adding she did not find out there were actually four tickets until the night before. “I went up at halftime (of a Ross game) and they told me we were all going.”
Maggie was not sure where she wanted to go to college but the bond with her sister was strong and she was able to visit her during practice and on the campus and met the other members of the cheer squad.
“I’m usually very shy, so knowing them before helped me out of my box. Knowing everybody now I have fun. I made a lot of friends,” she said. “We definitely put in a lot of time. It is definitely an honor to cheer here.”
Their mother said the sisters have always been competitive but still very close.
“Sometimes I think they have their own language,” she said.
Maggie said the highlight of her cheerleading experience has been sharing the time with her older sister.
“There are a lot of memories cheering with her,” she said, recalling her own Miami cheerleading tryout and worrying she had not made the team. “It was posted but I did not know. She came down screaming, ‘You made it.’ ”
After saying both of her daughters started training at age 5, Janna Eason backtracked a little, admitting her younger daughter, Maggie, had actually performed in her first competition on her fifth birthday. She had been around the gym enough to know much of the routines. A girl scheduled to compete with that age-group team was unable to perform.
“I learned the routine that day pretty much. I learned it in 10 minutes and went out,” Maggie said.
Mackenzie said the two of them cheering together at Miami was to be expected.
“We always cheered together. For her to come here was just normal. We push each other a lot, just to be better athletes,” Mackenzie said. “I could not imagine not doing it after high school.”