Cisco cancer survivor named Texas Cheerleader of the Year

Kentleigh Nichols Cheerleader of the Year.jpg
Kentleigh Nichols Cheerleader of the Year.jpg

CISCO, Texas -- In the world of high school cheerleading no one does it better than Kentleigh Nichols.

The Cisco senior has won countless trophies and medals and was typically recognized as the best cheerleader among hundreds at summer camps.

Now, Nichols now can add the title of the best in the state.

The Texas Association of Girls Coaches named her as the Cheerleader of the Year for Classes 1A-4A.

"When you stop and think about all the cheerleaders in the state of Texas, 4A and classifications under combined. The hundreds, perhaps even thousands of cheerleaders that represents, to be selected as the best is very, very special," said Cisco cheer coach Amy Dodson, who nominated Nichols for the honor.

"It was pretty exciting. It was an honor," said Nichols.

Nichols is a four-time Top All-American, as recognized by the National Cheerleaders Association.

"Every size, every place she distinguished herself as the best cheerleader on the floor," Dodson said.

All of Nichols' accomplishments are made even more remarkable because of what she has overcome, which we detailed in a story on her from January 2017.

Nichols was born with neuroblastoma. The tumors were so pervasive that surgery wasn't an option, so she began chemotherapy at just six weeks old.

"They thought she wasn't going to be able to walk. They didn't think she'd survive," said Dodson. "It's just amazing. How easy would it have been for [her family] to say, 'Well, the doctors said...' But they never accepted that for themselves or for Kentleigh."

The cancer returned two years later, until Nichols was pronounced a cancer survivor at the age of seven.

"I was not supposed to play sports, but I wasn't going to let them tell me no," said Nichols, who also played basketball, softball and ran track.

"You can overcome obstacles and set goals for yourself," said Nicols, fighting back tears. "You can go reach those goals even though you had troubles when you were little."

Nichols has lingering effects from the disease and treatment. She doesn't have good hearing, and only has one kidney.

"To think about all those things when people said, 'You couldn't, you couldn't. She'll never, she'll never.' And then she gets out every Friday night, every Tuesday and Friday night for basketball. Whether she's on the court or cheering, she defies the odds," said Dodson.

Cisco held cheerleading tryouts for the next school year last Friday. It was a bittersweet day for Nichols -- and coach Dodson.

Both knowing that a fantastic cheer career was over as they watched the next crop of girls performing stunts and yelling for the Loboes.

"It has been nothing short of a joy to coach her the last four years," said Dodson. "It's sad to see all my seniors go. This is a special group of seniors and Kentleigh certainly leads that group."

Her life's journey has taught Nichols anything can be overcome, no matter the circumstances.

"Knowing you can [achieve your goals] and not letting anything hold you back."