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Ole Miss Rookie Cheer Career Put on Pause

By Livi Matulich

IMC Freshman

Ani Domingue has spent the past nine years of her life cheering, ever since trying out for the Lafayette, Louisiana, Cathedral Middle School cheer team in fifth grade. She was a gymnast beginning at the age of 6, before starting her cheer career.

Domingue had quit gymnastics at the beginning of fifth grade to try a new sport and make a new group of friends before the jump to middle school. She quickly picked up on all the motions and stunts. Tumbling was already a talent of hers.

Cheer was always an outlet for Domingue to take her mind off any stress she was carrying.

“I couldn’t picture life without it, and knew I needed cheer to get me through the tough four years of college,” she said, recalling her journey to become a member of the 2022-2023 Ole Miss cheer team. Putting this journey on pause was a hardship she never believed would occur.

Domingue quickly fell in love with cheerleading and by her sophomore year of high school, she knew college cheerleading was something she wanted to do. Being from Lafayette, she was aware of Ole Miss, but she wasn’t very interested until she heard the school had an all-girl cheer team. 

“I had heard and seen so many amazing things that attracted me to the school, but the cheer aspect made me want to enroll right away,” she recalled.

Friends from home began to attend LSU cheer clinics and begged her to join them in trying out for the LSU cheer team. That made it much harder for her to choose Ole Miss.

At her first Ole Miss cheer clinic in November 2021, Domingue immediately felt at home and welcomed by the team and coaches. “In my early years of competitive cheer, I was always surrounded by people who had the same passion for cheer, and I felt that again being around the Ole Miss cheerleading community,” she explained. 

She knew immediately walking out of the clinic that Ole Miss was where she belonged. A few days later, she walked up to the Tad Pad and spotted her name on the 2021-2022 Ole Miss cheerleading roster.

The moment was surreal for her and one she described as an accomplishment she had been working towards since she could remember.

This summer, leading up to tryouts, Domingue continued to prepare for the cheer season, while spending time traveling with her boyfriend and family before she left for college six hours away from home. 

One month before leaving for college, Domingue and friends traveled to Indian Creek Campground in Tennessee. A few days of fun eventually led to a four-wheeling accident. She was riding as a passenger on her friend’s four-wheeler when it flipped off the road and ran over her left foot.

“The first thing I could think of was how mad my coaches would be,” she remembered. Getting injured right before the start of the season was the last thing her coaches would want to hear while preparing for the upcoming football season.

She was surprised by the reaction of her coaches and teammates and was still able to attend camps, practices and any cheerleading events held on campus. Although it was hard to watch her peers at practice every day, she continued to have a positive attitude and enjoyed being a part of the team.

Football season was in full swing and Domingue continued to attend every cheer event to cheer on teammates and help out with whatever was needed.

“She took the situation in the best way possible and never failed to do what was asked of her,” said Payton Hugley, one of her teammates. “Although her season has not been like the rest of ours, she pushes us to be the best and I can’t wait to see her back on the mat.”

Her circumstances, she said, have taught her many lessons as well as helped her grow as a cheerleader, and she now realizes what she may have taken for granted in the past. She was cleared recently and is working to get back on track with the rest of the team.

As an injured D1 athlete, Domingue acknowledges the pain of watching others complete her lifelong dream while realizing her dream was taken by one small accident on the camp that July day.

“You can’t take anything for granted anymore,” she said, “especially lifelong dreams that you are so close to achieving, yet are forced to put on pause from unfortunate circumstances.”

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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