Cheerleaders — they go to every game, every practice, and every day they are hoisting people in the air. Despite the hard work and rigor that goes into building the cheer team to great heights and throws, they are usually thought of as only a halftime show. Patriot Varsity strives to break down that stereotype.
“I don’t like how people just think we make up dances and wave around our pom poms. Personally, cheer for me is something special and different,” sophomore Sophia Anne Hurtado said. Hurtado describes her and her cheer team as “school leaders” who are put under a constant spotlight. She feels pressure to deliver the best show but keeps cheering because of “the Friday night lights.”
“I love stepping on that football field on the sidelines and being so close to the game, hearing the crowd and watching the boys play while I’m surrounded by my friends. I just love the energy,” Hurtado said.
The energy is what keeps most of the cheer team going. “A cheerleader to me is someone that is really passionate about the team that they’re cheering for and is always spirited,” senior Gina Heintskill said. “Cheerleading is 150 percent a sport. You’re putting in just as much work, time, energy and effort like any other sport on campus.”
If the cheer team does not work together well, then, beyond the crowd getting disappointed, the girls can get injured. “Like any team, everyone must work together. The difference is the amount of danger that is involved with cheerleading. A simple basket toss can launch a flyer about 20 feet in the air. If everyone is not in sync, not only will we look uncoordinated but someone could get seriously injured,” sophomore Tyra Wilkerson said.
Cheer captain senior Natalie Scott recounts how “cheerleading gave her time management” on the field and off. Scott dreamed of being a cheerleader once she entered high school. Now, as one of the captains of the squad, she enjoys exhibiting positivity even on hectic days.
“Having to throw other cheerleaders in the air while making sure you’re on the right count and that your hair still looks good while doing it takes a lot. Running and working out is only slight work that we have to do in comparison to stunting, hitting jumps and constantly rehearsing our routines,” Scott said.
Groups hoist flyers into the air. Flyers need to master trust, especially with two feet on hands of students. (Photo/AHS Cheer Team)
In fact, Scott felt cheer’s hectic schedule mingled well with her academia but believed her social life suffered instead. Since cheerleaders are on the field for practice and performance for football games from 3:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. on Fridays during football season, the team is left with less time to hang out with friends outside of the squad. The teens did not let this hurdle impact their spirit though.
“What keeps me cheering are the girls on my team. They motivate me to keep on pushing even when the dances or stunts are difficult. I think whether you’re cheering for football or basketball or for judges, it is hard no matter what. You spend countless hours working on dances and stunts and cheers to put it all together,” freshman Meagan Cashman said. “This team [is] my family, and I was so grateful I was able to share this experience with my second family.”
Just like most families, the cheer team would quarrel. Even through missteps though, they tried to bounce back.
“Being around the same people almost every day helps you to create a bond that is quite unbreakable. It’s similar to having 23 siblings; you can get angry with them at times, but you will always love them,” sophomore Tyra Wilkerson said.
The varsity cheer team is not limited in grade levels, either. The team consists of members from all grades, including a few freshmen and sophomores.
Girls cheer team poses with Dwayne Wade. With celebrities in the crowd, cheerleaders learn composure among stars. (Photo submitted by Gianna Clemente)
“This year stood out from the rest considering the different ages we’ve had, from freshman to senior, we’ve all got to bond with each and give advice to the lower classmen,” Heintskill said.
After a year with a diverse team, Patriot Cheer brought their team to new heights and high spirits.
“Being a cheerleader has made me realize that no matter how behind you seem to get, if you keep a positive outlook then you will win in the end regardless,” junior Sarah McDonald said. “Your spirit is how you make cheerleading your own; you have to smile, bring up the crowd and add your own energy to it.”
With cheer practice in second semester taking place almost every day after school and games scattered throughout the week, Varsity Cheer has a lot of time to work together and keep their family tight-knit.
“I have grown so close to so many girls and met amazing people throughout this year, and I am more than ecstatic to start it again next year,” freshman Rachel Laureano said.