ROCK SPRINGS – Dayna Folks was already one of the most-decorated cheerleaders in the history of Rock Springs High School when she entered her senior year – the only Tiger to ever earn a varsity letter as a freshman and the first all-state selection in five years – but she was far from satisfied.
Unlike many incoming seniors, Folks also already knew what college she would be attending – Wallace State Community College in Alabama – but she wanted to do more than just attend it. She wanted to be a member of its cheer team.
As captain of the RSHS cheer team, Folks was already responsible for being the hardest worker and leading by example, but now she had even more motivation. While the process of choosing a school was already done, the prospect of a college tryout was constantly looming.
“I started to push my self a whole lot harder, because I wanted to be one of the best out there,” Folks said.
With a clear goal in mind, Folks prevailed through the long cheer season with a constant bright smile on her face. Following the state spirit competition, she earned her second-straight all-state selection.
Then a couple weeks later, she was flying south toward Alabama and a tryout that would determine whether her decorated cheering career would continue.
Just as she did with her all-state audition, Folks nailed her college tryout at Wallace State. The results turned what was already an easy college decision into a no brainer, as she not only made the team, but received a full-ride scholarship.
“I wanted to go there regardless once I got accepted to Wallace (State). I was going to go there whether I made the team or not,” Folks said. “Now that I got the full scholarship, it’s a big help. Once I found out that it was a full scholarship that waved out-of-state tuition, that sealed the deal.”
For a cheerleader who already has a long list of accolades and achievements, making the cut for a college team might top them all.
“I was just so excited. That was one of my biggest accomplishments I think,” Folks said. “I’m one of the first kids in my family to ever to a college sport, let alone a full scholarship. It was a really big deal.”
WHY WALLACE STATE?
It was a bit of a unique path that brought Folks to Hanceville, Alabama. Despite never getting recruited, she knew Wallace State was where she wanted to attend for almost a year before she made the team.
The idea started about a year ago when Folks was talking to her brother, Jared, and his wife, Tayler, who attended Wallace State herself.
“It just kind of came up in conversation, kind of as a joke – me cheering there – and then I started researching it more and I kind of decided that I was going to go for it,” Folks said. “There was actually no recruitment at all. I found them.”
That was the beginning of the process for Folks, but for her mother, Christine, the idea of her daughter cheering at the next level started a long time ago.
“My mom always had this dream for me since my freshman year come to find out. She told me ‘I always thought you would cheer in college,’” Folks said. “I thought I would be done after high school. It was really last June that I started thinking about it, but I never had the thought about cheering in college until then.”
Regardless of how she made her way to Wallace State, Folks thinks that she has landed in the perfect situation. It has the program that will allow her to pursue a career in occupational therapy, plus she’ll be living just 10 minutes away from her brother and his wife, which will provide a little home comfort.
“I don’t think I’d be as OK and ready to go that far from home if they weren’t there,” she said.
The original plan was to move to Hanceville in August, but Folks’ departure from Rock Springs ended up being much quicker than that. Shortly after Folks made the team at Wallace State, the coach that she tried out for took another job in Birmingham, Alabama.
The replacement? Rob Metcalf, who was responsible for multiple junior college national championships during his previous 20-year stint with the team. Folks said he expects a lot from his teams and one of those things is to report to school early to start preseason work.
So now instead of heading to school at the end of the summer, Folks has been madly packing to arrive for the last part of June. She and her family left for a cruise and her senior trip starting June 13, and as soon as she gets back to the airport, she is grabbing her other bags and flying to Alabama to start her college journey.
“It was a shock. I was mentally preparing myself for August. … It makes me more nervous and sad … I haven’t time to say goodbye to anyone yet,” Folks said. “My parents said ‘just pack the essentials’ until they can move my stuff down there in July. … We’ll go our separate ways in the airport pretty much.”