JHS cheerleader Meredith Gallo perseveres despite injury

The 2022 football season for high schools is long over. But there is one more story from this season worth telling.

There were a lot of great shows on the grill last fall. But no one showed more courage, determination or school spirit than cheerleader Meredith Gallo from Jacksonville.

Gallo, a senior, suffered a serious knee injury during summer camp. But even after surgery to repair the damage, she never left the match.

Gallo was injured at a National Cheerleaders Association camp during a coup. “You land on one leg,” said Gallo, “and my knee is completely inverted and I tore all the ligaments in my knee.”

Gallo had already achieved All-American status in the camp, demonstrating outstanding character, integrity, responsibility and leadership. She was selected to participate in the Top All-American – Best of the Best competition.

“Staff members pick you based on your skills and what you’ve brought to this camp,” Gallo said. “They want to see how well you do and how well you treat other people on your team.”

“It was devastating because it was an hour before my attempt,” she said. “So, I mean, you go to Top All-American and then you drop. They told me that as soon as I went to the hospital, I was out of the game for the rest of the year.

Gallo was the only camp cheerleader who was asked to be part of the event staff next year.

This was the first time Gallo was injured while cheerleading. “I’ve never thought about getting hurt before,” she said.

But the injury is not history.

Gallo was supposed to go to camp for the Jacksonville J’ettes the day after she came home from cheerleading camp. She was still walking, even though the news wasn’t good.

“I had my MRI and they told me a paragraph about things that were wrong,” she said.

Gallo had to wait a while before she could have surgery. One of her ligaments was only partially torn and needed a chance to heal.

After her surgery, doctors found that Gallo had torn another muscle on the side of her leg. “They said I couldn’t walk for six weeks, so they put me in a wheelchair,” she said.

Cheering in a wheelchair was as difficult as expected. “It was tough for sure,” said Gallo. “Nothing like I would have thought. I do not know. It was difficult.”

A few weeks later, Gallo was cleared to go out for the final game of the regular season. In the end, she had to stand aside and cheer in a limited way.

Most cheerleaders would probably put away the pompoms after such an injury. Not Gallo.

“I’ve always loved joy,” she said. “It’s the only thing I can partly participate in with my team. I love being with them and the atmosphere we are in. It’s just fun to come and support the boys and be with all my friends.

Gallo doesn’t expect a full cleanup until July or August.

“It’s definitely hard because I don’t like standing still,” she said. “I like to blend in with the crowd, do different things. But at least it’s fun to walk and get up again.”

Still sidelined with a brace on her leg, Gallo was a vital member of the Jacksonville J’ettes, which won the IHSA Class 1A Competitive Dance state championship on Saturday.

She never had the opportunity to perform with the team, but Gallo was with her teammates every step of the way, helping to coach the team, critique and making suggestions throughout the season. She was the team’s biggest cheerleader.

And that’s something Meredith Gallo hates more than anyone else.

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