Cheerleader of the Month:
***By Jennifer Renée SmithPhotographed by Rafael Tongol; hair and makeup by Elsie Knab
Step One All-Stars & Hilliard Davidson HS, Columbus, OH
Those born under the summertime sign of Leo are often known as creative, warm-hearted, generous, enthusiastic and natural-born leaders who crave the limelight, and if anyone’s personality perfectly lines up with this zodiac sign’s more desirable traits, it’s 16-year-old Lexi Kaufman. In fact, landing on our August cover couldn’t be more appropriate for this Ohio gal, who confesses that she’s a regular reader of AC’s Cheer-O-Scope. Not only does she celebrate her 17th birthday during this month (she’ll blow out her candles on August 9th), but she’s also set to begin another milestone in her life—her senior year in high school, where she’ll reprise her role as a Hilliard Davidson HS Wildcat cheerleader and reunite with her all-star cheer family at Step One All-Stars, a program she’s been with since 2005.
After taking last season off to cheer exclusively with Davidson’s varsity non-mount team, Lexi is looking forward to competing nationally with one of Step One’s senior level 5 teams (either small senior or coed) and working toward earning another bid to Worlds (she was on Ohio’s first-ever team to qualify in 2006).
“Lexi has been a wonderful asset to our program,” says Nick Eichler, program director and coach at Step One. “She just has that drive in her to want to be the best she can be at something. You can see it in her eyes—That desire to be better today than she was yesterday. We’re excited that she’s coming back to cheer with us again.”
Cheering out of Her Shell
Like many competitive cheerleaders, Lexi’s first love was gymnastics. She started taking classes at age 4 and learned how to do a back handspring before she could cartwheel. However, after years of competing with her club she discovered all-star cheerleading at age 10, and begged her mom to let her cross over. “I actually didn’t want her to [start cheering], because I didn’t want her to beat her body up,” says Angel Kaufman, who was a cheerleader herself in middle school and high school. “I wanted her to stick with gymnastics.” Her mom eventually gave in and enrolled Lexi at The Cheer Center in Grove City, OH.
“She was such a shy kid,” says Angel. “I’ll never forget the first time we saw her on the competition floor, and all of a sudden she was doing facials and selling the routine. She just came alive up there. I was just like, ‘That’s not my daughter! That’s not Lexi.’ It was then, I thought, I’m so glad she found cheerleading.”
Getting a New Life (Sort of)
News that the fam is moving across town generally isn’t something a high school freshman wants to hear, especially one who’s happily settled on two cheer squads. Although this particular move was only 30 minutes away for Lexi, it still meant switching schools and finding a closer all-star program.
Lucky for her, it was because of cheerleading that she was able to make a smooth transition. “I was really fortunate, because all the girls [who were already on the HDHS team] helped me with tryouts and getting to know people before school even started,” says Lexi, who already started going to nearby Step One All-Stars, where her high school team also tumbled.
Having a coach who was also fresh on the scene didn’t hurt either. “Lexi and I were both the new girls at the same time, so we learned our way around together,” says HDHS Head Coach Jennifer Cooper. “We relied on one another a little, because I didn’t know all the team traditions and neither did she. I would say, ‘Oh I didn’t know we did that either,’ and she didn’t feel so awkward.”
After she spent sophomore year cheering at Davidson only during football season and competing with Step 1, Lexi faced another fork in her road: Continue to spend most of her time practicing with Step 1 or go full-out for her school.
“I really wanted to experience cheering for basketball and competing with my high school team before my senior year,” says Lexi. “It was a great decision for me. If I hadn’t done cheerleading at my new school, I wouldn’t be such good friends with any of the girls I am right now. I love that they’re always there for me, and I’m happy that I’ve formed such strong bonds with them.”
Planning for the Future
With her sights set on studying medicine and eventually becoming a surgeon (she took all advanced science courses last year), Lexi would also like to continue cheering after high school. To prepare to score a spot on her favorite college teams—the University of Kentucky or a competitive school in Florida—Lexi has been taking private classes to beef-up her coed stunting skills. “I’ve been more focused on working on the skills necessary to get to that level, rather than picking a specific school,” she says.
“Actually I’d like to see her at UK,” says Coach Eichler. “We also have a few former members who cheer for the University of Louisville. It would be great to have an another athlete from our gym go to a school with a good academic reputation and a prestigious cheerleading program.”
Lexi’s Lucky 13 Q&A
PEOPLE SAY I LOOK LIKE: A young Jamie Pressley or Michelle Pfeiffer
ONE OF MY BEST CHILDHOOD MEMORIES IS: Going to my first nationals in Florida when I was 10.
TUMBLING SKILL I’M STILL TRYING TO GET: Standing full
I HAVE AN IRRATIONAL FEAR OF: Tall buildings
I’D LOVE TO BE ON: “The Price is Right,” because it’s my favorite game show, and I want to hear the announcer say, “Lexi Kaufman… Come on down! You’re the next contestant on the ‘The Price Is Right’!”
MY USUAL STARBUCKS ORDER IS A: Grande iced coffee with Sweet ’N Low
I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO: Try out for a school play or musical.
COMPETITIONS MAKE ME: Excited and very thankful that I started cheering.
IN 10 YEARS, I SEE MYSELF: Still in medical school. I hear it takes forever!
BEST VACATION I EVER HAD WAS: Going to Disney World this year for Spring Break with my family and BFF Erin.
IT’S SO ANNOYING WHEN: My dad purposely sings the wrong words to songs on the radio.
IT BREAKS MY HEART WHEN: Girls are self-conscious about the way they look. Every girl is a princess and every girl is beautiful and unique and should be happy with herself.
MOST VALUABLE ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: Make good choices because you never outlive your reputation, so make sure you’ll be proud of it throughout life.
Just a Few of My Favorite Things…
Color: Tickle Me Pink
Book: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
Board Game: Clue
Subjects: Science and drama
TV Show: “Ugly Betty”
Scary Movie: The Omen
Smell: Hollister’s August perfume
Tumbling Pass: Punch front through to full
T-Shirt Saying: “My boyfriend told me to choose between him and cheerleading… I’m sure going to miss him. What time does practice start?”
Movie to Quote From: Superbad
• I wake up every morning at 6:15 am and lift with my personal trainer for 45 minutes.
• Most of my pets have people names. I have a dog named Louie, three cats named Matt, Amanda and Oscar, and a fish named Sushi McLovin (in honor of one of my favorite movies, Superbad.).
• My greatest indulgence is peanut butter. I go through a jar of Smart Balance Omega about every two days.
• I’ve broken my nose six times.
• I cry every time I watch The Notebook and Romeo and Julie with Leo and Claire.
• I have two middle names in honor of my grandmother Joanne and mom’s best friend Louise.
• I can bend my elbows backward, and when I look up, one of my eyes goes to the side.