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DuRant follows a familiar path in signing NLI to cheer at PC
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NCHS’ SARAH GRACE DURANT signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and cheerleading pursuits at Presbyterian College while flanked by her older sister and Wingate cheerleader Abigail DuRant and their parents, Kim and Michael DuRant. Standing, from left, are NCHS principal David Branham, NCHS cheerleading coach Valarie Johnson, PC cheer coach Shana Belden, NCHS assistant athletic director Christy Holley, DuRant’s grandfather, Jerry Horton, and DuRant’s cheer coach, Kim Connell.

By her own admission, Sarah Grace DuRant was not so good on the golf links when she was a member of the North Central High School squad, coached by her uncle Mitch Lowder, as a freshman.

It is one of the few things which DuRant has not been successful in doing. 

Recently, the North Central senior has signed a contract with the New York Model Management in New York City. She is also in the process of studying for and attempting to receive her private pilot’s license. In between all that, DuRant signed a National Letter of Intent with the competitive cheer team at Presbyterian College.

Sarah Grace will become the third female member of the DuRant family to cheer at the collegiate level. Her mother, Kershaw County School Board Trustee and North Central graduate Kim DuRant, cheered at Newbery College while Sarah Grace DuRant’s older sister, Abigail, recently completed her sophomore year as a member of the cheerleading team at Wingate College. Abigail signed her NLI with Wingate after cheering for North Central in the spring of 2017.

By signing with PC, DuRant continues on a path which she mapped out for herself when she first started cheering on the team at North Central Middle School when she was in the sixth grade.

“It was always the plan. I’m excited to meet my goal,” DuRant said of having the dream to cheer in college. As for which college that would be for, she said a winter trip to the PC campus in Clinton sealed the deal.

“I toured PC in February and I really liked the campus … it’s a small campus,” she said. “I also met the cheer coach (Shana Belden) and I really liked the program. It just felt right.”

Ironically, the last football game which Kim DuRant was on the sidelines for as a cheerleader was Newberry’s former annual Bronze Derby game against PC. While it might be a bit strange seeing her youngest daughter cheering for her alma mater’s most heated rival, Kim DuRant knows blood is thicker than water.

“When I was at Newberry,” she said, “our biggest rival was PC. We played them for the Bronze Derby every Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the last time we played them when I was there, PC won the game.

“I never thought that when I was at Newberry College that I would have a daughter cheering for our rival school. But Sarah Grace was very impressed with Presbyterian College.”

While Newberry and PC do not meet on the gridiron, if they do resurrect the series, at least one member of the Blue Hose competitive cheer squad will know all about the rivalry and what it means to each school.

“My whole life, I have grown up going to Newberry College football games,” Sarah Grace DuRant said with a smile. “My mom has given us a lot of support and she is very excited about Abigail and me cheering in college.”

As a freshman at North Central, DuRant and her teammates were on the squad which competed for a state championship. Being part of a program which competes for a national collegiate crown excites the soon-to-be NC graduate.

“In college, I will be competing. In high school, I only competed in my ninth grade year,” she said. “We’ll compete to go to nationals so it will be a lot harder work to build up to competition.

“It’s very advanced (in college cheering.) You have tumbling and stunts. I’m excited to see how that goes.”

While at North Central, DuRant estimated that she and her cheer teammates practice three or four times a week during football and basketball seasons, for about two hours a day. That is not counting the games at which they cheered on the Knights and Lady Knights.

As someone who loves sports and watching them, DuRant said she was partial to cheering at basketball games more than at football games in which, for a good portion of contest, the cheerleaders had their backs to the playing field while getting the NC crowd involved in the action.

“I love sports. That’s why, in high school, I liked basketball cheering better because you can watch the game,” she said of the hardwood in which cheerleaders are in the first few rows of the stands and can take in the game action.

While DuRant and her fellow cheerleaders rooted on their schoolmates, the squad was just like the teams they cheered on. If the cheerleaders are not on the same page, things can fall apart like they would on the field or court. That part of the sport is what appeals to her.

“I like the teamwork and how it takes a group effort and it is not an individual sport,” she said of cheerleading. “I like making friends; it’s an easy way to make friends. I also like the challenge of cheering.”

And like the stick and ball athletes who play on Friday and other nights during the week, cheerleaders must also adhere to a strict workout routine which includes honing their craft while staying in playing shape in the offseason. Just recently, DuRant returned from a cheer camp which will help her get used to what life will be like as a college student athlete. 

 “We’re going to work out at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays, have tumbling on Mondays and Wednesdays and workouts on Wednesday afternoons,” she said of her schedule at PC. “At North Central, for competitions, we would have conditioning and then, run a lot.”

If there is one wish she would like to have come true at PC, Sarah Grace DuRant said it would be for the Blue Hose to play Newberry College again. In the same breath, she said having football or basketball games against Wingate would also be right up there on that list. “It would be fun to cheer against Abigail.”

For now, older sister has been someone Sarah Grace DuRant can lean on as she prepares to leave home and follow continue in what has become a family tradition.

“It helps a lot having a sister who cheers in college. She told me that it keeps you busy, you will make friends who will help you get through it,” she said with a smile. “I know that it will all work out.”