OC valedictorian graduates after making school history in cheerleading

Laguna Niguel resident Ryann Leff has graduated as a valedictorian after making history at San Clemente High School as the school's first cheerleader to sign on National Signing Day.
LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (KABC) -- Laguna Niguel resident Ryann Leff has graduated as a valedictorian after making sports history at San Clemente High School.

Earlier this year she became the school's first cheerleader to be a part of National Signing Day - signing with Maryville University in St. Louis.

"I really fell in love with the sport, so when I was offered the opportunity at Maryville to compete on their STUNT team, I was so excited, so blessed and I cannot wait for the next season to start," said Leff.

Just this year, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics recommended STUNT be added as an emerging sport noting the increase in colleges sponsoring STUNT and the continued growth in high school programs.

"There are four quarters, there's different rounds, different rules, we have referees, we have our own fans, we have our own stadium," she said.

But for Ryann, it was more than a sport. It was a distraction from what was happening at home, including her mom's health issues and a split between her parents that forced them to move three times in the last couple of months.

"I think it helped save me and helped me persevere and keep my eye on the prize because I was so involved with cheer and it helped me become involved with my school and my community," said Leff.

That perseverance also helped push her to graduate with honors.

"We're so proud of her and excited that she - throughout all of this, her perseverance, for all my kids, she's been able to be a valedictorian," said Leff's mother Illina Leff.

Her mom says it wouldn't have happened without the help of family and friends that became their village even allowing her to go to Missouri to compete for a scholarship.

"I just want my kids to know that you try to do for others, stay positive and keep up the fight, no matter what, no matter what goes on in your life," Illina Leff said.

"My sister doing what she did, she set the bar high for me. So that's gonna push me to reach up higher to complete goals like her," said Ryann's brother Nathan Leff.

Ryann will attend Maryville University in the fall to study pre-law.
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