Baldwin’s Ernst earns coveted Division I cheerleading scholarship

Friday, June 21, 2019 | 5:14 PM

Baldwin’s loss is Morehead State University’s gain.

Paige Ernst, a 2019 graduate, will continue her cheerleading career at Morehead State. Practice starts this summer.

Ernst is the first Baldwin student to land an NCAA Division I scholarship for cheerleading during Taryn Madden’s coaching tenure, which started in 2009.

“We are so so proud of Paige and all she accomplished this year,” said Madden, who shares the coaching duties at Baldwin with Dena Mihalsky. “She is opening so many doors and paving the way for the younger girls in our program to strive to follow in her footsteps. Morehead is a top-ranking program.

“Paige is an irreplaceable team member. Her personality from the moment she walked into our program was unlike any other, and she stood out with her leadership from the get-go. She knows how to have fun but knows even more how to work hard for something.”

Ernst, 18, was drawn to Morehead State for several reasons.

“It was mostly their cheerleading success,” Ernst said, “but the campus is so out of my comfort zone I would say — from living in the city to now being in a small country-style town — was another reason for my decision.

“I did consider Bowling Green but two weeks before Morehead tryouts I did not make the BGSU cheer team, which was my Plan B. So I was mentally brought down thinking if I can’t make my Plan B team, how am I going to make Plan A? But I didn’t give up and just trusted the skills and coaching I’ve had throughout my life, and I’m happy I’m going to my Plan A school.”

Morehead State, located in Morehead, Ky., is a member of Ohio Valley Conference, along with Austin Peay State, Belmont, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Murray State, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Tennessee State, Tennessee Technological University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.

The Eagles’ football team competes in the Pioneer Football League, which participates in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) as a football-only conference. Morehead State is the only public school in the conference.

“I am very excited to experience being in another state and being on the Morehead State cheerleading team,” Ernst said. “I cannot wait to bring all the expectations and experience home to Pittsburgh after another fast four years.”

Ernst has been cheering for 10 years. She started her career as a youth/football sideline cheerleader in second grade.

Baldwin’s competitive mat squad placed third in the nation in the Large Varsity Division 2 at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship held Feb 8-10 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The Baldwin girls also were UCA regional winners, grand champions at Bethel Park, and had the WPXI cheer of the year.

Ernst was a member of the Baldwin competition team during her freshman and senior years.

“I could not do the comp team in my sophomore and junior years because of other commitments and expenses,” she said.

As for being the first Baldwin student in recent memory to earn a Division I cheerleading scholarship, Ernst said she let herself dream big and had total confidence.

“My expectations as a freshman (at MSU) are the same as the rest of the team,” Ernst said. “We have many ‘work weeks’ in the summer when we go to Kentucky to train twice a day for a week. And when we’re home, we have 10 workouts we have to complete weekly. Some of them are running a certain distance and time twice a week. There are different tumbling and stunting we have to do, along with answering trivia questions weekly.”

MSU’s first cheer work week runs from June 25-30; the second takes place in late July.

Because she served as class president this year, Ernst was a speaker at Baldwin’s commencement ceremony. She was joined at the podium by student school board representative Nathan Hobson, a Baldwin hockey player.

“My commencement speech was about specific unique moments and people that made our senior year and our whole high school career something we’ll remember for a very long time,” Ernst said. “Never regret anything you do in high school.”

Ernst was a captain on the competitive cheerleading squad as a senior, the varsity representative as a junior and a JV captain as a freshman. She was involved in the National Honor Society and Bridge Builders program.

“She is an incredible student-athlete,” said Madden, a Baldwin cheerleader from 2001-05. “With being the class president, to cheering for the school and all-stars, working almost full-time, and still keeping her grades up, she is so responsible and has learned amazing time management. These skills are going to help her for the rest of her life.

“She also did a great job showing her teammates the type of athlete and captain we look for. She pushed her competitive teammates to get new skills throughout the year and it paid off at nationals. The team not only did it for each other but for Paige — to repay her for the incredible journey she took her team on this year.”

Ernst was a three-year varsity letter winner in the Baldwin cheerleading program, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA.

“Seeing how much the Baldwin cheerleaders have already learned this year is insane,” she said, “and I can’t wait to watch them grow as they continue the (2019-20) season.”

Ernst plans to major in business marketing.


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