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STUDENT SPOTLIGHT - Erica Cantrell
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Erica Cantrell - farm photo.jpg

Erica Cantrell is a senior on the Lady Pioneer high school basketball team. She lives on a seventh-generation family farm and does chores six days a week. 

Erica Cantrell is graduating summa cum laude, which means she has not made a B in high school, completed four honors courses and 10 advanced courses with a minimum 21 on her ACT. 

FYI, Erica’s ACT super score is 29 and she has never made a B in school. Without question, Erica Cantrell is more than a basketball player.

The question is how does Erica do everything she does and do everything so well? Her parents, Peggy and Wayne Cantrell, have simply told Erica to do her best, to please God, and they will be proud of you. 

Erica started playing basketball when she was in third grade. First it was Jaycee basketball, AAU travel, Dibrell, Boyd Christian, and then basketball at Warren County High School. 

Erica transferred from Boyd Christian to Warren County her sophomore year, and she was not positive she would be playing basketball. Academics were her focus, and she had to make the basketball team at WCHS. Erica made it in time for the last day of tryouts for the Lady Pioneers. 

Erica’s first coach at Warren County High School, Shea Panter, remembers Erica as a sophomore, “someone who was always an aggressive rebounder and had a knack for finishing around the rim.” Erica worked on her game after her junior season, which has helped her develop into a solid contributor on this year’s team.

If you think Erica has a full schedule of farm chores, school, and basketball with no free time, think again. Recently on Senior Night, Erica had an unusual plan for her introduction. She made a sign that contained a riddle, asking Alex Delk from Cookeville to go to the prom with her. Coincidentally, the Lady Pioneers were playing Cookeville that night and Delk attends Cookeville High School. Delk was in attendance, and he enthusiastically accepted Erica’s invitation.

Another coincidence is Delk is attending Tennessee Tech this fall on a football scholarship and Erica is attending Tech’s Whitson-Hestor School of Nursing this fall. They initially met on Instagram and had a few mutual friends like “Dirty” Doug Wells, a Pioneer football player. 

Erica’s family may be “old school” in some ways. Alex could not take Erica on a date until he met her parents. Delk had dinner with Erica and her parents as a form of introduction, and they have been dating since the fall.

The pandemic did not stop these two overachievers from meeting one another. The pandemic did not slow Erica down in any shape or form. While COVID-19 may have been somewhat depressing for many high school teens, something happened during the COVID-19 shutdown last year that energized Erica. Ironically, it was heartbreak that motivated her to start making changes last March during her junior year.

She had broken up with a boyfriend of two years. Instead of feeling sorry for herself and being depressed, she seized the breakup and pandemic shutdown as a time to do what she described as “focusing” on herself. She focused on church, academics, the farm, and sports. She leaned on her sister, Erin Cantrell, and friend Dillon Haley who was at Maryville College playing football. 

During this time, Erica went to Fall Creek Falls for two weeks on a family vacation. She visited a cousin in Chattanooga. She worked hard on her basketball skills. She lost 20 pounds. She went to the lake often at Fall Creek Falls. She paddle-boarded and swam.  

Erica’s farm chores include throwing 50-pound mineral sacks around to feed the cattle, repairing fences, vaccinating cattle, checking bulls for fertility, helping birth calves, driving a feed truck, and much more. She has taken five honor courses, 13 dual enrollment courses, two agriculture classes, and played varsity basketball the past two years. Erica has started every game her senior year for the Lady Pioneers, and she has enjoyed winning 11 games this season as compared to only two games last year.

Although Erica has been accepted into Tennessee Tech’s School of Nursing and plans on getting a master’s in nursing and becoming a nurse practitioner, her goals do not stop there. Erica is also interested in the possibility of getting a master’s in education and teaching at the nursing school. Yet her real dream is simply to be a mom. Maybe a mom with four children.

Erica exhibits an exceptional work ethic and has solid values that will make us all look to the future with optimism. Erica Cantrell is making a positive difference now, and will continue to make a difference in the future.