Last year, Cheshire High School senior Mia Denhart experienced an epiphany in the classroom. While learning about about chemistry from science teacher Susan Chasen, she was intrigued about how concepts related to marine life.
“I love animals and being able to go underwater,” said Denhart. “I also like science and thought it would be great to tie that to the sea.”
To follow her passion, she will travel far from home later this year. After graduation, Denhart has chosen to study marine biology at Hawaii Pacific University.
“I love tropical areas,” said Denhart. “I also think Hawaii Pacific is perfect for me because they have small class sizes.”
With the school located next to the water in Honolulu, she looks forward to the opportunity for hands-on learning in college.
“The school has a great biology program,” stated Denhart. “Students from all over the world go there, so I’m excited to meet people from different cultures.”
While she is not sure what job she wants to pursue, down the road, Denhart would like to work at an aquarium.
“It would be great to swim with dolphins. They are very smart and enjoy human interaction,” said Denhart. “I think my favorite animals are finger monkeys. They are small and cute.”
Denhart also wants to balance her academic pursuits with a career in cheerleading. A four-year athlete at CHS, she plans to record a video to audition for the Hawaii Pacific team in June.
“They want me to introduce myself and show some jumps and tumbling on the mat,” stated Denhart. “I think that cheerleading would keep me active and organized in college. The coaches value academics and make sure that athletes keep up with their classwork.”
Growing up in Wallingford, Denhart picked up her favorite sport in third grade. When her family moved to Cheshire in 2015, she joined the local cheer program in town.
“Before I went to Dodd (Middle School) for seventh grade, it was good to make connections with people,” reflected Denhart.
She feels that cheerleading has also strengthened the bond with her older sister Carlese. In joining the CHS program as a freshman, Denhart looked up to her sister as a senior athlete.
“Cheerleading was something that we could share. We learned cheers together,” reflected Denhart. “Having her around made my experience a lot better.”
During the fall season, Cheshire cheerleaders provide team spirit at football games.
“Going to the games was so much fun,” recalled Denhart. “Whenever we perform, our attitude is to do our best and stay positive. We bond over learning our choreography.”
Traditionally, the Rams perform as a team in winter competitions. In most events, squads get to perform a single two-and-a-half-minute routine of cheers, tumbling, jumps, stunts, and dance for judges.
“It is definitely a great experience,” said Denhart. “Before we go on the mat, we are nervous and excited at the same time.”
As a base athlete in routines, Denhart stands at the bottom during stunts to support flyers.
“In my freshman year, I flew through the air for one part,” reflected Denhart. “The girls are required to go to a tumbling class to make sure they can do the positions.”
The cheer program travels every two years to Ocean City, Maryland, for the Reach the Beach Nationals, one of Denhart’s favorite experiences.
“I went for the first time as a freshman,” Denhart recalled. “I’d never been on a large stage like with big lights before. It was a life-changing experience.”
As a junior, she tore a ligament in practice, but still went on the trip again to Nationals.
“I sprained my ankle in training,” said Denhart. “Even thought I was injured, I wanted to be there for my team.”
Denhart enjoyed being elected as a junior co-captain with classmate Hannah Roberts.
“It was a great honor,” said Denhart. “I wanted to show the girls that they could come to me for support. Off the mat, it is important to keep learning about being a leader, too.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Denhart had her cheer experience cut short over the last year. Cheshire cheerleaders were allowed to participate in non-contact workouts in the fall and winter, but since competitions and 11-on-11 football games were canceled, the team was limited to virtual performances and cheering at boys’ basketball home games.
“It was definitely a big let down,” stated Denhart. “I was anticipating the senior experience. I wouldn’t be cheering for this long if I didn’t love it.”
In dealing with a scaled back schedule, Denhart thought that this year still allowed her team the opportunity to work on skills. During the winter season, she served as a co-captain for the second year in a row.
“When things don’t go right, you can look for ways to make things better,” said Denhart.
In the fall, Denhart cheered as part of the Cheshire program’s largest senior class (14 girls).
“When we were freshmen, so many girls tried out for the team,” reflected Denhart. “I remember how we bounced ideas off each other. There was always a positive atmosphere.”
She appreciates of all of her instructors, including Cheshire Head Coach Samantha Buckley.
“Sam wants us to reach our full potential and understands what that looks like,” explained Denhart. “The staff was always supporting us.”
During her cheer career, Denhart felt that she enjoyed the family aspect of the Cheshire program.
“We bonded during bus rides and activities. I’ll miss the girls and coaches,” said Denhart. “When I leave for college, I think it is going to be tough. I’ve never left my family for an extended period of time.”
While she will miss Cheshire after graduation, Denhart said that she is beyond excited to start the next part of her life. She plans to leave for Hawaii on Aug. 6.
“I’m grateful for what is to come,” stated Denhart.