Brandy­wine cheer­lead­ing coach wins big at 2016 Neigh­bor­hood Awards

Chris­tian re­flects on Best High School Coach win

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

What hap­pens in Ve­gas, stays in Ve­gas — but that wasn’t the case at the 14th An­nual 2016 State Farm Neigh­bor­hood Awards Week­end, a three-day, star-stud­ded event held July 22- July 24 to rec­og­nize and cel­e­brate men and women from all over the U.S. who have spot­lighted their neigh­bor­hoods through their con­tri­bu­tions and ex­cel­lence as en­trepreneurs, re­li­gious and com­mu­nity lead­ers, ed­u­ca­tors and more.

It was the night of Sat­ur­day, July 23, at the Man­dalay Bay Events Cen­ter, in­side the Man­dalay Bay Ho­tel and Casino, where celebri­ties and nom­i­nees from 12 unique cat­e­gories con­verged on the Las Ve­gas Strip, dressed to im­press. The un­tele­vised show, hosted by Steve Har­vey, be­gan at 7 p.m. with live per­for­mances from The O’Jays, Erykah Badu and Maxwell.

Kim Chris­tian, a cheer­lead­ing coach from Gwynn Park High School in Brandy­wine, was among three other fi­nal­ists nom­i­nated for Best High School Coach. And then it hap­pened. Just af­ter 8:30 p.m., the Neigh­bor­hood Awards of­fi­cially an­nounced

on Twit­ter that Chris­tian had won in her cat­e­gory.

“It was amaz­ing,” Chris­tian re­calls in a phone in­ter­view Aug. 2. “It was my first time go­ing to Ve­gas so that was all ex­cit­ing in it­self and be­ing a part of the ac­tiv­i­ties, it just made me feel spe­cial. I felt like a star for a week­end. Every­body was so nice and pleas­ant and they con­grat­u­lated me af­ter I won the award.”

Chris­tian, an alumna of Vir­ginia State Univer­sity, said her ex­pe­ri­ence at the awards is one she will never for­get. Be­ing on­stage, talk­ing to every­body and let­ting the world know that cheer­lead­ing is a sport was her fa­vorite part, she said.

“I was so sur­prised that I won and it just really, really made me happy,” said Chris­tian who at­tended the awards with Car­letta Mar­row, for­mer prin­ci­pal of Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Up­per Marl­boro. “I was ap­pre­cia­tive that so many peo­ple were sup­port­ive and voted for me to win. That was just so over­whelm­ing. It was very touch­ing and a very hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Hav­ing coached at Gwynn Park High for the past seven years, Chris­tian knows a thing or two about win­ning and rep­re­sent­ing the best of the best.

Ear­lier this year, the school’s ad­vanced var­sity cheer­lead­ing team won top hon­ors as cham­pi­ons of the 2016 U.S. Fi­nals — an an­nual cheer and dance com­pe­ti­tion held in Vir­ginia Beach. This year marks the fourth year in a row that the team has been rec­og­nized as the best in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian.

“It’s big­ger than a na­tional,” Chris­tian said. “They’re the top team out of all the teams who won their na­tion­als and com­pete at this event.”

Since Chris­tian’s ten­ure as coach, the team has also won county cham­pi­onships ev­ery year and at least four or five state ti­tles.

“Kim Chris­tian de­serves that ti­tle. She is a phe­nom­e­nal coach,” said Tra­cie Miller, prin­ci­pal of Gwynn Park. “The tech­niques she uses with mo­ti­vat­ing the girls not only to be their best in their ath­letic skills, but also in the class­room be­cause she is a class­room teacher as well. All of that makes me ex­tremely proud of her.”

As for the school, Miller said Chris­tian’s suc­cess is just an­other op­por­tu­nity for oth­ers to see that Gwynn Park is an out­stand­ing school with great teach­ers and coaches that help de­velop great stu­dents. What makes Chris­tian stand out is her ex­tremely high stan­dards and ex­pec­ta­tions for ex­cel­lence, she said.

“She de­mands com­pli­ance. She de­mands per­fec­tion,” Miller said. “Hav­ing those high stan­dards make the girls want to do bet­ter; they won’t give up. Even if it’s very chal­leng­ing or tir­ing, she will still spark some­thing in them to make them get up and say, ‘Ok, I’m ready to do it again.’ … She has high ex­pec­ta­tions and there’s no op­tion other than to meet them.”

“She’s a very good coach and she pushed me to do things that I didn’t think I could do my­self,” said D’Naysha But­ler, a se­nior at Gwynn Park and mem­ber of the ad­vanced var­sity cheer­lead­ing team. “She helped me im­prove my con­fi­dence in my­self. I’m really happy for her and glad I came to this school.”

“She’s the best coach ever. She de­served it,” added Danielle Davis, a for­mer team mem­ber who grad­u­ated from Mor­gan State Univer­sity in May and now vol­un­teers her time to as­sist Chris­tian. “[Coach Chris­tian taught me that] ed­u­ca­tion is first. You have to have the grades in or­der to par­tic­i­pate. You learn that cheer­lead­ing is more than just a sport. She teaches you how to live through day-to-day sit­u­a­tions.”

Kayla Loynes, a se­nior now in her fourth year of cheer­ing, said Chris­tian is a ded­i­cated coach who works hard and mo- ti­vates her team­mates to strive for the best.

“For most peo­ple, ed­u­ca­tion comes first but not every­one knows how to main­tain [that and cheer] at the same time. But with be­ing on this team, you have to learn time man­age­ment and how to bal­ance things out,” Loynes said. “I was able to man­age a 3.6 cu­mu­la­tive GPA and do what I like to do at the same time.”

As far as next steps for Gwynn Park’s cheer team, Chris­tian said the goal is to keep the spirit alive for their beloved team­mate, Alexx Hern­don, who lost her life to bone can­cer last May.

“She’s with us in ev­ery­thing we do,” said Chris­tian. “You will see ‘E4A’ [mean­ing Ev­ery­thing for Alex] in a lot of our hash­tags [on Twit­ter]. The school loves Alexx. She was just so spe­cial to every­body.”

Chris­tian said she hopes her spot­light will shed light on some of the pos­i­tive things that are hap­pen­ing within Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools.

“I think it lets the world know that we do ex­ist,” said Chris­tian, who also teaches so­cial stud­ies. “We’ve had some stu­dents with is­sues that cheer­lead­ing, as far as be­ing a sport, has def­i­nitely helped them get ready for the fu­ture and go to the next level out of high school. … It just makes me feel good to know that they have en­joyed be­ing a part of the pro­gram. It puts a real spe­cial place in their heart and it’s some­thing they’ll never for­get.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Gwynn Park High School Prin­ci­pal Tra­cie Miller, far left, and mem­bers of the ad­vanced var­sity cheer­lead­ing team smile as they sur­round coach Kim Chris­tian hold­ing her 2016 State Farm Neigh­bor­hood Awards Best High School Coach plaque. Chris­tian, a so­cial stud­ies teacher who has been at the school for seven years, helped lead the cheer team to win the U.S. Fi­nals cham­pi­onship four years in a row. The team has also won seven county cham­pi­onships and at least four or five state ti­tles in years past.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Chris­tian holds a tro­phy her ad­vanced var­sity cheer­lead­ing team won this year as cham­pi­ons of the 2016 U.S. Fi­nals, mak­ing it the fourth year in a row.

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