By LARRY VAUGHT
She was born and raised a Kentucky sports fan and Molly Begley says because that’s all she’s known that is going to make cheering for UK that much more fun the next four years.
She was one of 45 cheerleaders picked for the UK 2020-21 cheer squad under first-year coach Ryan O’Connor. She found out about 11 p.m. last Thursday when she got an email.
“I started screaming as soon as I saw the email on my phone. My dad, sister, mom all ran in my room. We were all so excited.”
Certainly her mother, Allison, was excited. She was a UK basketball and football cheerleader and graduate from Kentucky in 1994. For the last 25 plus years she’s owned and operated Allison’s Cheer-Nastics in Harrodsburg to train cheerleaders. There have been other former UK cheerleaders have a daughter cheer at UK — but not many.
“I am pretty sure mom told me I took my first steps in her gym. I have grown up in the gym,” Molly, a 2020 Boyle County High School graduate, said. “I’ve just always loved the cheerleading atmosphere. The competitive part, I love getting ready and performing a routine. For game day, I love cheering on the crowd, getting everybody involved. But my mom knew everything about cheer, so that just made my journey a lot easier.”
“Mom is so excited for me. I have worked hard but she has been right there beside me to get me where I am. I think she was actually more nervous than me wondering if I made the team. She was all up in it when she was cheering. She knows what hard work it is.”
She said her drive comes from her father, Will Begley, superintendent at Burgin. He tried once to persuade her to play soccer in elementary school, but soon accepted her heart was in cheerleading, not soccer or any other sport.
“He has pushed my sister and and me in all we did,” Molly said. “He was there for all the academic stuff and made sure we stayed on top of our grades. My whole family helped me get where I am now. I wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps. I knew how much she wanted this for me.”
Her friends understood the work she put in and supported her goal.
“My sophomore year in high school is when I really knew I wanted to cheer there,” Molly said. “That’s when I really wanted to stunt and do more stuff.”
Making the UK squad was a bit more difficult this year. Not only does UK have a new coaches, but tryouts were not held on site. Instead, Begley and others had to post a video on YouTube showing them tumbling and doing stunts as well as performing one cheer. She also had to submit answer to questions.
“Because some people could not get to a gym, we were allowed to use video of stunts and things we had done before,” Molly said. “I really wish we could have done in-person tryout to get that experience. Mom and I would go to Lexington and watch the final day of tryouts. I couldn’t even imagine being down there trying out.”
She’s scheduled to move into the UK athletics dorm Aug. 9 and start two-a-day practices Aug. 10 until classes start Aug. 17. She’s been getting up early to run and work out. She’s also tried to tumble as much as possible outside and in the gym.
She has yet to meet O’Connor in person.
“We did a Zoom call with the whole team,” Molly said. “That’s where we first met her but I am excited about meeting her in person soon.”
She knows a few of the returning cheerleaders and says the six freshmen girls that made the team have been exchanging frequent text messages.
“I think we have all got close through texting. I am really excited that they are just different people I really do not know and I am going to be making new friendships and doing new things,” Molly said.
What about the pressure not only to continue UK’s national championship history but also follow her mom as a UK cheerleader?
“There’s maybe a little bit of pressure. I don’t know how it will impact me honestly. I just know I am excited to be on the team and get started,” she said.