cheer_01 Fourteen-year-old Carly Manning photo by Elizabeth Lavin

7. Spirited: Writer Jason Sheeler embedded himself in the world of competitive cheerleading by spending time with the champion Plano Panthers squad.

"Shelby looks at her teammates, some very tan, most very made-up. She leans back on her elbows, her triceps bulging. The Bishop Lynch High School senior whispers, 'Sometimes when the girls sweat, they actually smell like Mystic Tan.' She rolls her green eyes, fidgeting with one of eight earrings, most of which she herself did the piercings for. The 5-foot-2 powerhouse is pale and doesn’t wear lip gloss. 'It’s becoming more about how people look than what they can do,' she says. 'I like the work and winning, not worrying about how pretty I am.'"