Vibrant, self-assured, athletic and focused -- Lindsay Cole is used to superlatives. She has heard them all her life.
It really comes as no surprise that when the Fox Sports Network was going to choose four members of the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleading squad to follow around for a documentary, one of them was going to be Cole, a Wheelersburg High School graduate and Miss November on the 2009 Bengals calendar.
Cole was one of the rookies the network featured in a documentary that follows her from the day she got her letter of acceptance to practices, and she even has been miked during the game.
"The first time it aired it was a two-hour special, and now there are four episodes they have broken up into half-hour episodes that keep playing throughout the season," Cole said.
"My two older sisters, they actually cheered in high school, and my mother was a cheerleader at West Portsmouth. So I guess I just have that cheerleader gene," she said.
On a windy Wednesday morning with the Wheelersburg football stadium as a back-drop for a photo shoot, Cole talked about her roots.
"I cheered in Pee Wee. I was kind of the mascot for my sisters when I was in high school, and then I started here at Wheelersburg in Pee Wee and second grade, cheered in junior high, cheered in high school, cheered in college (Ohio University) and now I have turned it into a career. I'm a professional cheerleader."
Cole credits Gail Schmidt, the cheerleading adviser and coach at Wheelersburg.
"A lot of what I've learned in cheerleading has carried me throughout my life, and it all started at Wheelersburg High School for me," Cole said. "Gail Schmidt is awesome. When I was at Wheelersburg, Gail was very strict on the things like the appearance portion. It definitely ties into what I do with the Bengals now."
Schmidt, in her 18th year as cheerleading sponsor, said young girls in the Wheelersburg community look up to the cheerleaders.
"You can see these little girls stand along the fence at a high school football game, and wave. My high school cheerleaders coach the Pee Wee cheerleaders here," Schmidt said. "There's more to being a cheerleader. A lot of people think that they just put that cute little uniform on Friday night and just go bounce around the stadium or the gym. But, I look at my girls and hope really hard that they are role models."
Schmidt said she is not at all surprised at Cole's success.
"She would eat, sleep and breathe it (cheerleading) when she was in high school. I was not surprised when she wanted on to OU, and she cheered at OU. She's definitely one of the best that has come out of Wheelersburg High School."
The Bengals select 30 women, 24 of which actually get to perform on Sunday. Some of the women try out numerous times to make the squad -- Lindsay made it the first time around.
"Every week, we have weigh-ins on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we actually have what we call a showcase where we showcase our dancing ability and all of our 21 dances, and that's actually how we try out for that week's game," Cole said. "It's very competitive throughout the week. People just think we go out there and throw things together, but it's really competitive. I'm an athlete on the professional level."
Cole's cheerleading has gone through an evolutionary process.
"Here at Wheelersburg High School, we are what you call ground bound. We do a lot of your traditional cheerleader roles, like the lockers and dancing," Cole said. "So when I went to college, I actually had to learn to stunt and do pyramids, and that gave me a different aspect, and now that I'm in the professional aspect in the NFL (National Foot-ball League) it's more glamorous. We do a lot of dance and dance techniques, so I'm really going back to my roots at Tammy Jo's (Greenup, Ky.)."
To people who believe cheerleading is just bouncing around on a football field or basketball court, they need only spend a day with these super athletes to see it is work.
"It's very competitive. It's actually a sport. In college, some of the larger schools actually give full ride scholarships. I know U.K. (University of Kentucky) does, SEC (Southeastern Conference) and Big Ten Schools, like Ohio State offer cheerleading scholarships," Cole said. "It's very competitive being at the level where I am right now."
Her career as a Ben-Gal started when a job promotion in the pharmaceutical field, where she has worked since graduating from college, took her to Cincinnati.
"I thought about the Cincinnati Ben-Gals when I first moved there last fall, but I had just started a brand new job, and I just didn't feel like in my life that was where I wanted to go right at that time. I was taking on too much," Cole said. "I actually trained for a marathon and got hurt. And I thought, you know what? I can't run anymore, but I can dance, and I'm really good at it, so I'm going to go back to my roots. I'm going back to cheerleading, and I went to a couple of Bengals games and I was just sold."
Cole went into training to get, "back to my fighting weight cardiovascularly." She took some dance classes, then tried out and made the squad.
"When we walk into that stadium we all want to be out on that field. That's why I did this -- I want to be on that field performing every Sunday."
Cole said there is heavy pressure and everything is looked at from glamour to weight to how they perform that night.
Being Miss November has brought with it a local celebrity status to Cole.
"My mother reminds me of that every time she calls me when I'm on the radio. This morning (Wednesday), I was on 99.3 and it's amazing to me that it's not just on the local level, but even in Cincinnati," Cole said. "When I'm going down through the tunnel on Sunday -- even the kids are yelling, 'I saw you. We saw you on TV'."
Cole has fulfilled another role while being a Ben-Gal -- "I'm a sounding board for girls with short hair. I think it's because I'm the only one that has short hair on the squad," Cole said. "Everyone has this really voluptuous long hair, People can pick me out from a long way off. It's the orange flips, the short hair and my orange and black."
Cole's countenance changes and she tears up a little when you bring up her family.
"Steve Cole and Linda Donahue. They have been such a great support system. I get a little bit choked up when I talk about them. My first preseason game, my dad actually came to the game and every corner we rotate every four quarters, and who was right front and center? My dad. He rotated all four corners taking pictures of me the entire time."
Another of her biggest fans is her mother.
"My mom is incredible. She sent me a dozen orange roses the day that I made the squad. I will always remember it. I have the card in my scrapbook. It says, 'I am so proud of you'. That's what it's all about. It doesn't matter how old I get. Hearing my parents say how proud they are of me is incredible and I'll never forget these moments."
So, at 28 does she plan to continue with cheerleading in some capacity?
"I don't want to plan my life out too far in advance. I'm just enjoying the moment."
One look at her smile and enthusiasm and you couldn't draw any other conclusion.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.