EL PASO, Texas — A former University of Texas at El Paso cheerleader who traded her pom-poms for dog tags after graduating last spring has apparently backed into the record books – head over heels.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jalyessa Walker did 49 consecutive back handsprings Saturday during halftime of the UTEP-Rice football game.
The crowd of nearly 20,400 in El Paso counted along as she tumbled from one end of the field to the other, past the end zone and into concrete, before stopping.
Walker said her goal was 50, but she ran out of room.
"As soon as I hit the concrete, I was starting to get tired and scared because I didn't want to fall," said Walker, 23.
In October, a Dallas high school cheerleader, Miranda Ferguson of St. Mark's School of Texas, set the record with 35 consecutive handsprings, according to Guinness World Records.
To break the record, Walker had to overcome several challenges – including only a month to train.
Soon after graduating from UTEP in May, she went to Fort Lee, Va., to take the Basic Officer Leadership Course, where she didn't tumble for four months. She also was concerned about the tendinitis in her wrists and the pain in her legs once she reached 30 handsprings during practices.
But her mother, Joleen Walker, helped her train and made sure she didn't work too much.
"When she sets her mind on what she wants to do, she does it," Joleen Walker said.
Why did Jalyessa Walker try to set a new world record for consecutive handsprings?
"I like challenges," she said. "I've been in gymnastics since I was 4, and tumbling is what I love to do. This is the perfect thing for me. So I thought: Why not give it a try?"