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Wildcat cheerleader overcomes cancer

Alpena senior Maranda Duntley helps lead competitive cheer squad at practice.

Alpena, Mich. — This past weekend the Alpena Wildcats competitive cheerleading squad, made up of six girls, look their talent to District. After four years of competing, the green and white scored a personal best of 513.86. Prior to that, Alpena had not competed for over five years. Senior Maranda Duntley feels accomplished after helping re-build the program.

There are a lot of obstacles to overcome as a student–athlete, but as a senior Duntley faced her toughest test in August of 2018.

“I had a check–up for a thyroid disease that I had already had and they found a lump in my throat,” said Duntley. “So I went to get a biopsy and they found out it was cancer.”

“I personally said she was going to be fine and that everything was going to be okay,” said cheerleading coach Angel Howard. “Trying to make sure she still had that positivity. She was like okay I’m going to do this and I said okay let’s go.”

Duntley’s strong spirit and teammates helped her fight past the disease.

“After she got the surgery we called her and her voice was so funny it was really high–pitched,” said junior teammate Reegan Potter. “She made us smile after and we made her smile, and it was really great just to be on the phone with her.”

As a senior, Duntley has been the voice and leader on the team, as well as a great base and back spot. For her, cheerleading provides a way to be free and express herself.

“When she’s off the mat, like at practice she’s so much fun and goofy,” said sophomore teammate Paige Langley. “She’s a lot of fun to stunt with and practice with.”

“She is very driven when it comes to (competition) because she wants to prove the school that we are more than just some pretty girls on the sideline,” said head coach Howard.

The senior’s determination not only helped Alpena earn a personal best at district, but now Duntley is cancer free after surgery in January.

“It’s nice to hear that I’m free, so now I can experience life in a different way.”

One thing has not changed. Her love for her Wildcat family.

“We’ve been small, but we’re Alpena and we have a big roar, so it’s nice to prove it.”