By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — After about 17 years as coach, Danville High School cheerleading instructor Pat Merrell has given her position its last hurrah.
“To me, it’s been a great honor and privilege to work with the girls and be their mentor,” she said. “It’s hard to leave…it’s been a big part of my life.”
However, with a sixth grandchild on the way, she feels its time to hand the position over to someone else.
It’s been a long, fruitful run for Merrell, especially considering she was never a cheerleader herself.
“I did not cheer in high school…I just became involved because of my daughter,” said Merrell of her daughter, Becky, now 30.
She got the instruction she needed from attending summer instruction camps with the prior coach, Rosie Notz.
Since then, she’s been a mentor to dozens of girls, and has had four of her cheerleaders selected to perform for the Pennsylvania team in the annual Big 33 Game for all-star high school football players. The most recent, Danville High School senior Lauren Fellin, will cheer at the upcoming game at Hershey Park Stadium on June 15.
“I think you stick with it because you want to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Merrell. “And I just enjoyed being with the girls, it was really a great time.”
Merrell will continue to coach cheerleaders for the varsity wrestling team, which she can more easily fit into her schedule. “Football’s a big commitment because the girls work all summer long. They’re very committed,” she said.
Taking her place will be her assistant coach, Jennifer Nardi, who has been working with Merrell for the past four years. “She’ll do a wonderful job with the girls,” said Merrell.
She will also continue to work as the secretary for Liberty Valley Intermediate School, a position she has held for the past 14 years. In total, she has spent over 20 years as a district employee.
At the April 9 school board meeting, board members and her own cheerleaders presented her with flowers and a blanket, personalized with images of herself and her cheerleading team.
“She did a fantastic job with cheerleading. We hate to see her go,” said board president Allan Schappert.
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