Vanessa Hooker | Age 15 | Elkhorn South
Fifteen-year-old Vanessa Hooker was born with cheerleading in her genes. Her mother, Shawnda, and father, Kevin, both cheered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-own Elite Cheer. Vanessa performed her first cheer lifts at just four months; Kevin would hold her in the palm of his hands. “She started stunting before she could walk,” Shawnda said.
Today, the Elkhorn South High School student has competed against the world’s best cheerleaders at the prestigious Cheerleading Worlds — not once, but three times. Vanessa trains more than 13 hours a week year-round to perfect the choreographed tumbling, stunts, gymnastics and jumps with her all-star cheerleading team through Elite Cheer. She is also on the cheerleading team at Elkhorn South High School.
Vanessa loves the competitive aspect of cheerleading. She and her Elite Cheer teammates have earned multiple awards on the national and international stage. The team earned third place in their division at the JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals, one of the largest U.S. cheer competitions with over 800 teams. That performance earned the team a spot to compete at Cheerleading Worlds, held last April at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Disney World. The team won the U.S. Finals in their division.
When she’s not training, Vanessa is coaching others in the sport she loves. She helps coach junior cheerleaders from ages 5-11. She’s also a role model for her brother Dominic, 11, and sister Jaideyn, 6. At school, her achievements earned her the Presidential Award for Scholastics.
Vanessa plans to continue cheering and make her way to the next Cheerleading Worlds competition. She hopes to earn a scholarship and follow her parents’ footsteps as a college cheerleader. Vanessa says she loves cheerleading because not only has she learned to trust and work with her teammates, she has also learned to dig deep and self-improve every day.