FLORENCE, Ore. — It’s a typical Friday night at Siuslaw High School. There’s a slight chill in the air as the Vikings hosted the South Umpqua Lancers.
Cheyanne Rudder, 14, a freshman at Siuslaw High, has wanted to be a cheerleader. Rudder has Down syndrome and autism and experts said she’d never go to a regular high school, let alone be on a team. Friday, she proved them wrong.
It all started when the staff at Siuslaw heard about Cheyanne’s dream. They worked with the cheerleading coach and the state athletic association. In the end, it was decided Cheyanne could cheer during home games, the 12th girl on an 11-girl roster.
Cheyanne practices one hour a day and leaves the more complex routines to the other girls. But where it matters most is the determination and spirit that defines a cheerleader and Cheyanne has everything it takes.
Larry Rudder, Cheyanne’s father, says the change in his daughter since she joined the squad has been remarkable.
“It changed her a lot. She kind of grew up overnight, so to speak,” Larry Rudder said.
The other girls on the team not only accept her as one of their own, they say they can’t imagine the team without her.
“I love it. Honestly, I love having Cheyenne around. She’s always making our day and making us smile. She tells us that we’re her best friends ever, and so it makes our day,” said sophomore Kylie Howland.
“It makes me feel good. She hasn’t had it easy in life, you know, with her leukemia and everything, but it makes me feel good,” Larry Rudder said.
If she wasn’t burdened enough, Cheyenne had leukemia when she was just 15 months old, a diagnosis she survived after nine months of chemotherapy.
Now she has lost hearing in one ear, and the other is starting to go. But through it all she perseveres, taking everything life throws at her. Until in the end, she is the greatest champion of them all.