The moment for Mandi Stafford has now come.
Stafford, named the new Tahlequah High School cheerleading coach on June 11, envisioned being a cheer coach when she was cheering at Bristow High School.
“This is something I really want to do,” Stafford said on Monday. “I cheered in high school and that was a dream for me to coach cheer whenever I was in high school, so really it’s not like a huge task to take on just because I think it’s something that my heart is in. It’s kind of a natural fit and helps me stay involved a little bit more at the high school.”
Stafford, also a counselor at THS, has assisted with the cheer program for the past three years under former coaches Vickie Elliott and Chrissy Waldhor. She replaces Waldhor, who has been head coach for the past two years.
Stafford was on board during Elliott’s final year. Elliot, who retired after 25 years, guided Tahlequah to back-to-back state championships in 1990 and 1991, and state runner-up finishes in 1993 and in 2017.
Stafford isn’t looking to make drastic changes. She wants to maintain a level of consistency that those before her established.
“I don’t really anticipate making a lot of changes since I’ve been with the program,” she said. “This is going into my fourth year with the high school and I’d like to keep it consistent and just keep the tradition of Tahlequah. I really just want to make Tahlequah proud.”
“I’m just really excited. I’m excited to have had the opportunity to coach with Vickie, who has coached at Tahlequah for so long, and then also to have coached with Chrissy, who was a Tahlequah High School cheerleader,” Stafford added. “I hope it helps me to just further on that tradition.”
Melissa Dotson, who has coached the freshman squad for the last three years, will be Stafford’s assistant coach.
“Since I’m a counselor as well, Melissa will be very, very viable in the program and will help make it successful.”