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Eleanor McDonald of the Willis Sweethearts
WHEN IT COMES TO THE VIBE AT WILLIS HIGH SCHOOL UNDER THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, IT’S HARD TO MISS THE ICONIC SWEETHEARTS DANCE GROUP.
The flashy silver and purple uniforms moving in unison can make it difficult for any, one dancer, to stand out.
However, the team’s captain, senior Eleanor McDonald, has found ways to do just that.
“I first started dancing when I was three years old, and I’ve been at the same studio (Backstage Dance) ever since,” said McDonald. “My mom put me in dance because my younger sister was born, and she wanted me to feel special.
“I’ve stuck with it since, because I really love it. I like to show my feelings through dance, and I have a real passion for it.”
McDonald had the rare opportunity to be a part of the Sweethearts’ 50th anniversary celebration before she was named captain this season.
“Last year, we had a bunch of alumni come back and we danced with them for a football game,” McDonald said. “It was cool to see the varying techniques and uniforms that have been developed over time. It was amazing to witness.
“This year, actually being the captain, it’s great to be a part of that legacy of the Sweethearts and to keep the tradition going.”
Given that she devotes so much of her time to dancing, it might come as a surprise to know that McDonald is an even more superb student. She is currently ranked in the Top 25 overall for the Class of 2024.
“Grades have always been very important to my family, they’ve always been pushing me to get all A’s,” she said.
“I personally hate when I get below a 90... it gives me so much anxiety. I like to maintain that standard because it makes me feel good about myself. I hope to be kind of an inspiration to my peers on the team that way, so they can aspire to do the same.”
McDonald has a plan as she wraps up her days at Willis.
“As of right now, I don’t intend to dance in college,” she said. “I still want to be a part of the dance program, just not on the team. Maybe I’ll teach choreography for other teams and some soloists, so I’ll still be dancing in my free time.”
Passing on her knowledge to others would fit McDonald’s personality, considering she spends time with the youth at her church. She is heavily involved in Vacation Bible School and their mission trips.
Next year, this Willis ambassador won’t have to change her school colors as she plans on majoring in math at Stephen F. Austin University.
What a Sweetheart.
Jermaine Bishop Jr. of Willis
WILLIS HIGH SCHOOL HAS BECOME A HOTBED FOR NEXT LEVEL TALENT IN THE SPAN OF THE PAST FOUR YEARS, WHICH HAS THE WILDKATS PRIMED FOR A BIG YEAR.
While some athletes have moved in from other schools, their home-grown talent have deep roots. Much like DJ Lagway, Jr., Jermaine Bishop, Jr. grew up a Willis Wildkat – going to games and loving the purple and black.
“A lot of family members have influenced my love for football,” he said. “I started playing very young and have never looked back. My family and community has been very supportive.”
Speaking of his family, his father Jermaine Bishop was a standout athlete for Willis, and his cousin, Michael Bishop, was a Wildkat legend. The Bishop name put Willis on the map, especially when Michael thrived at Kansas State and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1998.
For Jermaine, living up to the Bishop family name is an honor. The life-lessons learned from his Dad and cousins inspire his game today.
“It’s a huge honor to rep the Bishop name,” he said. “There’s always a target on your back when you have that family legacy, but I just embrace it. They’ve taught me the right mindset and work ethic to do this at the next level.”
As a freshman on varsity, Bishop burst onto the scene winning the District 13-6A Defensive Newcomer of the Year. He tied for first in the district interceptions and subsequently blew up this Spring as a high- level recruit.
“Last year was a great experience... truly, it was just a blessing,” Bishop said. “The guys welcomed me onto varsity and helped me start my journey.”
After his freshman year, Bishop, Jr. saw his recruitment explode. He picked up a dozen Power-5 offers in the offseason.
What has the rise to stardom been like for the rising sophomore?
“It’s honestly a dream come true,” Bishop said. “It’s just a blessing for my family and myself. I try to stay humble, keep a good mindset and just be a guy the younger players can look up to.”
Much like the other Bishops who came before him.