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Emily Norris (center), holding court at a cupcake and wine tasting. (Lorene Norris photo)

Former CHS cheerleader Emily Norris (center), holding court at a cupcake and wine tasting. (Lorene Norris photo)

How popular are her cupcakes?

How popular are her cupcakes?

So popular that she has to go out in disguise to avoid the paparazzi!

So popular that she has to go out in disguise to avoid the paparazzi!

When Emily Norris first became a cheerleader, it just about floored her mother.

The 2007 Coupeville High School grad ended up cheering for all four of her years as a Wolf — two as a member of a competition cheer squad — but that first moment when she picked up the pom poms came as a surprise to Lorene Norris, co-owner of Kapaw’s Iskreme.

“It was just something that sounded fun at the time; my mom about had a heart attack,” Emily Norris said. “I went to the first couple of practices and was hooked, and I think the girls I cheered with kept me coming back every year.

“I really liked the diversity of the girls that came out for cheer,” she added. “And how, even though sometimes it felt like the only thing we had in common was being cheerleaders, that was enough.”

Norris roared on the football sidelines for four years, cheered on basketball as a sophomore and then went to nationals during her time as a competition cheerleader.

The time she and her teammates spent together, both on and off the floor, remains special to her as her 10-year reunion slowly creeps up.

“Any time we got on a bus was great; as cheerleaders we didn’t get to go anywhere as often as other sports, so there was this novelty that never wore off,” Norris said. “Going to competitions was always fun, because we finally got to show off our hard work to people who understood what we put into our routines.

“Going to nationals was an unforgettable experience, both on and off the mat,” she added. “We bonded as a team in a way we really hadn’t before, and got to bond with other teams representing Washington.”

That camaraderie helped carry the Wolves through the nail-biting pressure of a huge spotlight event where a single flubbed moment could come back to haunt a team.

“Cheerleading has somewhat of a reputation for being catty, and it can be hard to argue with it, because it’s one of the few sports where if you make a mistake all you can do is hope the other team makes a worse one,” Norris said. “There’s nothing you can do to earn your points back once you’ve dropped someone — you just cross your fingers that everyone else drops somebody too.

“But when we went to nationals the Washington teams were all very encouraging of each other in a nice change of pace,” she added. “And it was a great competition to have been able to participate in.”

As she grew into becoming a more polished, confident cheerleader (“I definitely felt a little out of place as a cheerleader at first, thinking maybe I wasn’t ‘bring it on’ enough”), Norris was helped out by both teammates and coaches.

Toni Barnes and Amanda Hertlein were amazing at making me feel like you didn’t have to be anything you aren’t to be a cheerleader, you just have to love to do it,” she said. “Shannon Hathaway, Sylvia (Arnold’s) longtime assistant coach, was always great too.

“She really approached coaching from your point of view,” Norris added. “She had no problem jumping into a stunt group or learning each part of a dance routine with you to make sure you knew exactly what you were doing.”

Now seven years out from her last moments screaming her lungs out for the red and black, Norris has an AA from Skagit Valley College under her arm.

She’s engaged to chef Bruce Stevens and planning an October wedding while splitting time between waitressing at Christopher’s on Whidbey and the Front Street Grill and kick-starting her own fledgling cupcake business.

“Hopefully cupcakes will be featuring more in my future,” Norris said. “Right now I’m only doing special orders, but, in the next few years, I’d like to have a physical shop in Coupeville.”

Toss in a new love of half marathons (she clocked in at 2:46:51 in her first one) and a somewhat obsessive search for a Pembroke Welsh Corgi (“If that happened in the next year, I’d die of happiness!”), and she’s a busy young woman.

But also one who has never forgotten the lessons she learned in the gyms of her high school days.

“Never give up on something you really want,” Norris said. “It took me three years to get on to the competition squad, and even though I’d be gutted when I didn’t make it, I was that more determined to work harder and be better than I had before.

“There might be times when you don’t like what you’re doing. You might be missing out on a social life, or life outside the gym is making you lose your focus,” she added. “But if there’s any part of you that truly loves it, you shouldn’t give up, because for a lot of us high school is the only chance we have to do these sports, and have the time to dedicate to them, and we shouldn’t look back and wish we’d have stuck it out and seen how far we could go.”

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