By Jacki Wood
This is the last in a series on former Spoofhound athletes who are now Bearcats.
Frequently called townies, a number of former Maryville High School athletes decided to stay in town and continue their academic and athletic careers at Northwest Missouri State University.
Debrielle Patee-Merrill, daughter of David and Jean Merrill, graduated from MHS in 2016. She was a member of the Maryville Dazzlers which performed at games, events and competed at state and was a part of the team that won 1st place at the 2016 Missouri Dance Team Association State Championship.
For the Bearcats, Patee-Merrill was on the cheerleading team from 2016 to 2018 and has been a Bearcat Stepper since 2018.
“I love the family atmosphere at Northwest,” she said. “There’s something really special about being a hometown girl dancing on the sidelines. I also love the tradition of success at Northwest. Standing on the sidelines at three national championships in three years is unheard of at other universities.”
She said there’s more pressure in college than there was in high school.
“I had never cheered in high school, so cheering in college was a completely new experience and taught me so much,” she said. “Returning to dance has felt like coming home.”
Patee-Merrill said they practice almost every day during the season, and even on days without formal practice, she usually finds herself in the dance studio. Many days start with a 6 am practice, then classes, followed by afternoon practice. She said they are done by 5 pm for homework and evening activities on campus.
“I chose to pursue college cheerleading because my mother was a cheerleader in college, and that’s actually how she met my father, who was a pitcher at Missouri Western,” she said. “I have had some really phenomenal role models in my older siblings, most of whom were college athletes – David at Missouri Western and Benedictine, DJ at Benedictine and Derek, Dakota and Dannen all at Northwest.”
While her family showed her the way to become a college athlete, she’s making a name for herself and is entering this season with a leader’s mindset.
“As a senior, I am so excited to get to know all of our new freshmen and help them to develop a Bearcat’s attitude,” she said. “I am the philanthropy chair for the team and really excited to serve my community alongside the team.
“Last year, the Steppers double-medaled in Pom and Gameday at nationals and I would love to improve upon that.”
In addition to her dance activities, Patee-Merrill is the Student Senate executive treasurer, a Student Ambassador and an Alpha Sigma Alpha sister. She is also involved with St. Jude and is a local titleholder in the Miss America Organization. She is studying accounting with a minor in geography and hopes to earn her CPA.
She and the Steppers perform at all home football and basketball games as well as soccer and volleyball matches and other campus and community appearances. They will kick off their season at the home soccer game on September 13, the home football game on September 14 and the home volleyball game on September 18.