Tearing your ACL is every athlete’s worst nightmare. For Natalie LaRock, of Washington Twp. Michigan, it made her worst dream become a nightmare. Prior to Natalie tearing her ACL, she was an accomplished competitive cheerleader. Natalie trained with a level 5 cheerleading team program called VIZION, out of Shelby Twp, Michigan. Winning the world silver metal at the World Championship of Cheerleading held at ESPN Sports Complex at Disney in Orlando, Florida, the year prior Natalie and her team were ready to redeem themselves and go for gold. LaRock says she, “ate, breathed, and slept anything cheerleading,” that is, until one summer day spent training resulted in ending her career that was just beginning.
LaRock went to a summer practice like any other day. Ready to leave it all on the mat. So when she went to throw her last running standing full tumbling pass, a flip more commonly known as “the one that you twist in the air” by those who aren’t aware of cheerleading terms, and she landed it wrong. “As soon as I landed, I could feel it. my heart stopped and a million things were going through my brain and before I knew it I was collapsing on the floor, screaming and feeling a pain I’d never felt before,” LaRock said.
The next year was spent rehabilitating. She exceeded her surgeons expectations and was back to competing before her estimated recovery date. But it came with a price, constant pain, aches, and tears made her realize that her dreams of gold and becoming a college cheerleading may never take flight. So she signed up to be a high school cheerleader in her hometown of Romeo, Michigan. “It was something I never wanted to do, I always told myself I never wanted to be a cheerleader that held pom poms and cheered on the football team. But I realized this was the only way I as going to keep the sport I loved so much in my life,” LaRock said. LaRock’s story is one of perseverance, hard work and determination.
Constantly throughout the process of shooting LaRock I felt as though I was never able to accurately capture her and her struggle. I went to two separate performances of hers and I found that she’s a very strong female that never lets you know when things are bothering her, never letting her smile falter even when her knee is in so much pain. She’s very team orientated, always making sure to encourage and push her team to be better and better. –