Kelsey Crawford native of Weirton — Contributed
COLUMBUS – While the Ohio Valley is full of Ohio State Buckeye fans, there is a strong local Notre Dame fan base.
And that includes the Crawford family of Weirton for good reason.
Like many, they will be watching the opening match of college football’s prime time at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday night.
That’s where the Ohio State Buckeyes will face off against Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with the stadium filled with over 102,000 screaming fans and millions watching across the country, including the Ohio Valley.
The game at 19:30. will be televised on ABC, and ESPN GameDay will be installed in Columbus during the day.
Michael and Karen Crawford, of Weirton, have two daughters at the University of Notre Dame, including Sydney, a 2021 graduate of Madonna High School and a sophomore who is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs, the 2022 National Gymnastics Champion Team, and the Faculty of Business of Mendoza.
Her daughter Kelsey, however, a 2020 graduate of Madonna High School, is a junior and a member of the Notre Dame cheerleading squad.
She is majoring in neuroscience and behavior with a specialization in computing and digital technologies. Her plans are to attend medical school and become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
Kelsey’s path to cheering at Notre Dame started early and has an ironic history involving OSU.
Kelsey competed as a junior Olympic gymnast at USA Gymnastics for 10 years and holds several Pennsylvania state and regional titles, her mother explained, noting that Kelsey’s experience as a gymnast made her transition to cheerleading easier.
As a Madonna High School cheerleader, Kelsey holds three OVAC titles as well as a regional title.
His interest in college cheerleading, however, ironically began at Ohio State.
In 2016, after finishing a gymnastics date in Columbus, she attended an Ohio State cheerleading clinic for fun and became hooked. She continued to attend clinics and soon caught the attention of coaches and team members, so she worked closely with them through high school, her mother noted.
Kelsey even participated in a recruiting football game her senior year.
“Kelsey thought maybe Ohio State was where she should be – after all, she was born at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center to young Ohio State students,” her mother explained. The Crawfords adopted Kelsey at birth, but she grew up knowing her birth family and Ohio State history.
Growing up in a Catholic family, however, Notre Dame was always a dream college for Kelsey, who excelled academically but realized that being admitted to Notre Dame is extremely difficult, especially as a first-generation Domer.
Even so, Kelsey made a strong request and began contacting the Notre Dame cheerleading coach. She uploaded her videos and attended a clinic. Once she gained admission of restrictive early action, she became more involved with the Notre Dame cheerleading squad.
And after much consideration, in April 2020, she made the decision to attend the University of Notre Dame.
“Kelsey still had to complete the cheerleading audition process by submitting a video that included tumbles, fans, atrophy, strength exercises and routines,” her mother explained. When the coach announced the team, Kelsey was the only female rookie selected.
Since then, Kelsey has become a member of the gold team, cheerleading competition team, and leadership team, and she helps choreograph new dances.
Kelsey commented, “When I made the team, I felt very honored to have the opportunity to represent the University of Notre Dame. It’s something I’m proud of and I strive to use my position to make a positive impact on others.”
On Saturday, when Kelsey takes the field at Ohio Stadium for the second time, it will be very special.
She will reunite with her Ohio State cheerleader friends and perform in front of family, friends and Ohio Valley fans.
Looking back on 2016, Kelsey noted that she always felt she would be rooting for this field, but she just didn’t know it would be in an Irish uniform.
While reflecting on this special game, Kelsey commented, “I’m so excited to be rooting for Irish in the Shoe. If you had told me three years ago that I would represent Notre Dame playing Ohio State, I would never have considered that a possibility. Can’t wait to reconnect with Ohio State friends and family, but go Irish!”
In addition to the Ohio State game, Kelsey is looking forward to other opportunities as a member of the Notre Dame cheerleading squad.
“This season, I will have the opportunity to travel to the University of Southern California and to Las Vegas for the Shamrock Series against Brigham Young University,” she noted. “Next year I will travel to Dublin, Ireland for the Shamrock Series game against the Navy.
“What I’m really excited about is the growth of our cheerleading program. For the first time in their history, the Notre Dame cheerleaders will compete in the Universal Cheerleaders Association College Championships at Walt Disney World,” she explained.
“These next two years are going to be very busy but fun.”
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