Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Hempfield’s Emerson Murdock

Monday, November 6, 2023 | 10:48 AM

At a high school football game, most of the focus is usually on the play on the field, the big hits and long passes.

But at all schools — and at Hempfield especially — the athleticism and enthusiasm on the sidelines also should be recognized.

At Hempfield, the cheerleaders are an accomplished group. Three years in a row, the school’s competitive spirit team has won a WPIAL championship.

Emerson Murdock is a long-time cheerleader who has been a part of that team since she entered high school.

“A three-peat in competitive cheer is huge,” Murdock said. “We strive as a team to uphold the consistency and excellence Hempfield is known for. We made a commitment to our team as a whole, in good times and hard times.”

On top of that, the Spartans have won back-to-back PIAA titles, and there’s plenty of credit to go around.

“Our competitive nature starts with our coach, Suzannah Mayer,” Murdock said. “She instills in us an amazing work ethic.”

Murdock is a big proponent of bringing more awareness to cheerleading, a sport that often gets overlooked.

“People don’t realize that cheer is a 12-month sport. There is no offseason,” said Murdock. “We are more than just the pretty faces you see on the sidelines. We are athletes.”

Outside of sports, Murdock is also active academically and in her community.

In May, Murdock was awarded the 2023 Outstanding Young Citizen Award by Trib Total Media.

“I was so honored when Trib Total Media chose me for the award,” Murdock said. “I work hard in the classroom, in the community and in athletics, and to have someone recognize my accomplishments means so much to me.”

It’s been a long journey for Murdock in cheerleading, one that is about to pay off in a big way.

She has been recruited by multiple big-time schools and has attended camps with colleges all over.

Murdock is still mulling over and receiving her college offers, but she’ll be majoring in secondary education with a minor in German.

This week, Murdock took some time for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

How did you get interested in cheerleading?

I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years. I always did cheer for fun until I officially retired from competitive gymnastics. When I retired due to the toll gymnastics took on my body, I wanted to stay fit and involved in a sport. Cheer was the perfect fit.

How much work had to be put into where you are now?

I’ve been in the gym since the age of 3. I trained as a competitive gymnast for 13 years. I did flexibility and endurance training. I also train with a private stunting coach, T.J. Banas at Superstar Athletics in Bellefonte, once a month.

What has the recruiting process been like?

The recruitment process has been a whirlwind, so much fun and totally eye-opening. Getting to visit these beautiful college campuses and interacting with the athletes and coaches was a total dream. I made my official visit to the University of Iowa in August and my official visit to the Pennsylvania State University in September for White Out weekend. Getting to stand on the sidelines and feel the energy is something I will never forget. I have a few more visits scheduled in the upcoming months. Once I have all of my offers, I will sit down with my parents and discuss what the best fit will be both academically and athletically. My dream has always been to go to a D-I Big Ten university.

What advice would you give to young girls wanting to get into cheer?

Cheerleading is so much fun and gives you so many opportunities for the future. My advice is start with the basics and build from there. You can’t move on to the next skill without mastering the skill before it. Start with a solid foundation and build from there. Oh, and learn to tumble.

What’s one thing that people don’t know about you?

Something funny is that although my sport requires an insane amount of athleticism, I am ridiculously clumsy. I broke my ankle walking down the stairs. Broke my nose by kneeing myself in the face. Blew out my knee doing a back handspring, which is the most basic skill, resulting in a complete knee reconstruction surgery.


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