BATH — Inspiration can come in many forms and in many different ways.

For Morse High School senior Olivia Cunningham, the motivation to perform as a school cheerleader came from her 99-year-old great-grandmother, Eva Wood.

And why not?

After all, Wood, too, is a former Morse cheerleader herself.

“It’s so awesome and unique,” said Cunningham. “A couple of weeks ago we pulled out her (Wood’s) yearbook for her 80th reunion. The differences in what we did and what we wore are definitely there, but it’s amazing.”

Wood, who graduated from Morse in 1941, was a cheerleader for one academic year, but remembers the memories spent on the sidelines fondly.


“It’s truly an amazing connection to have with a family member,” she said.

Cunningham only began cheering when she came to Morse as a freshman three years ago. She said she always wanted to try it, but that she just hadn’t had the opportunity.

While cheering routines look different today compared to the 1940s, there are still a lot of similarities.

Eva Wood, who graduated from Morse in 1941, poses in her cheerleading uniform from the 1941 season. Photo provided by Soggy Dog Designs

“We went out and jumped up and down and shouted out cheers,” said Wood. “They still do that today, but some of the things they do are nothing like the things we did.”

Wood added that she can’t believe some of the things cheerleaders can do today.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “They go high in the air and have a full team. We only had four cheerleaders that cheered at games. We didn’t have any competitions like they do today.”


When Cunningham was deciding if she wanted to compete on the cheerleading team, she went to her Wood — or ‘Nana’ as she is called by family members — for some guidance.

“We talked a little bit about why she started cheering and what she loved about it,” said Cunningham. “Our influences were a bit different but the end result was the same.”

Wood’s path to becoming a cheerleader was a bit more complex.

“I asked the (physical education) teacher and assistant coach if I made the cheerleading team if I could ride on the bus with the boys to away games,” said Wood. “He said yes but I never dreamed that I would make it. And that’s how I became a cheerleader. They did make me sit right behind the bus driver, though.”

Cunningham and Wood both share a love for the finer details of the sport, including the work that goes into putting together a routine.

Morse senior Olivia Cunningham poses with her 99-year-old great grandmother Eva Wood recently. Wood was a Morse cheerleader in 1941 and is wearing her uniform from that year. Photo provided by Soggy Dog Designs

“People tend to think there’s drama within cheering teams, that’s just not the case,” said Cunningham. “I love the work ethic and community surrounding the team, just like my Nana did, too.”


Both often share a trait crucial for success in cheerleading: having a strong voice.

“We’re both very loud,” said Cunningham. “One of the most important things in cheering is to be loud, we have that covered.”

Cunningham and Wood are a part of a large family with Morse ties. Wood says she’s had siblings, cousins and several grandchildren attend Morse.

She says she takes advantage of every opportunity she gets to watch Cunningham in action, whether it’s cheering on the sidelines or watching her swim for Long Reach Swim Club in Bath, or for Morse. Cunningham also plays lacrosse in the spring.

“Whenever I can go, I go,” said Wood. “I used to cheer behind the bench, now I’m cheering from the bleachers.”

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