Hickman Cheerleader Cheers Through Difficulty
COLUMBIA -- There are plenty of stories about athletes and coaches, but this time it's a Hickman cheerleader that has an inspirational story.
Rachael Stoerker grew up liking gymnastics but when she reached high school she turned her attention to cheerleading.
For the past four years she's performed at sporting events and in competitions, overcoming a big hurdle and not letting it quiet her excitement.
The Hickman High School 2012 football season was one to remember. From a win at Jefferson City to two wins against their crosstown rival Rock Bridge, senior Rachael Stoerker has seen every play from the sidelines.
"Being a cheerleader you're supposed to encourage people and cheer them on," Stoerker said.
What's amazing about Rachael is she encourages the fans to cheer while she can't hear them.
Ear infections and illnesses as a child led to her losing some of her hearing.
"She walked right up at tryouts and said, 'If I look like I didn't hear you I really didn't. I'm deaf. You have to face me so I can read your lips,'" cheer coach Molly Lyman said.
"A lot of times if I don't hear the actual sound I can feel the soundwaves and it puts more pressure into my ears," Stoerker said.
The pressure isn't a good thing. While most of us hear enthusiastic fans, Stoerker feels pain.
"Instead of hearing everyone roaring I hear a whole bunch of static and my ears just feel like they are going to explode," Stoerker explained.
"The louder the crowd is the more it drowns out the beat of her music or the girls voices so it makes it very difficult for her to hear where she's at in the routine," Lyman said.
While cheering, communication is key when lifting, tossing, and catching teammates.
"The sport of cheerleading is not all about you. You're a team and the team has to work together and if she couldn't work well with the team it was going to be difficult," Lyman said.
Stoerker made the decision to cheer without the help of hearing aids.
"Just in case it gets knocked out. They're really expensive so if I drop one and someone steps on it and they break," Stoerker said.
"There are times when she's looked at them and said I can't hear and they'll count it for her, grab on to her, pull her where she needs to go and make it work," Lyman said.
She's made it more than work, most fans and the players she cheers for don't know she has any difficulties at all.
"What it shows the other girls is you can't let anything get in your way," Lyman said. "No matter what's going on in your life or in practice, sometimes you just have to set aside your difficulties and push through them."
"You know, you might not have it like you want it, but you always have it better than someone else does. There's always someone else on the streets that has it so much worse than you do," Stoerker said.
"The one who defied all odds in my mind," Lyman added.
After high school, Rachel says she'd like to go to Mizzou or Missouri State and wants to continue cheering in college.
With the Hickman football season over, Rachel will turn her attention towards cheering for the Kewpie basketball team that will soon start its season.