Jumping, shouting and doing stunts, Heritage cheerleaders always try to get the crowd roaring, and the new addition to the junior varsity cheer team has done his part to lift the squad. Sophomore Jiawei Zhang is an international student from Heyuan, Guangdong, China and currently the only male cheerleader at Heritage. Zhang started cheer this year, participating in basketball cheer and is planning on continuing in the upcoming spring football season.
Looking for a sport to join, Zhang asked his friends for sports they recommended he look into. Cinzia Baracco, a sophomore friend who is also a junior varsity cheerleader, convinced him he should join the cheer team and would make a great addition. Baracco told Zhang that coach Jessica Burns, the junior varsity cheer coach, was happy that another student was interested in junior varsity cheer, especially since he would be the only male cheerleader.
“[To be the only male on the cheer team] makes me feel special. It’s pretty fun, and it is pretty much the first sport that I’ve played at Heritage so it makes me feel more interested in the sports area and makes me want to join more sports,” Zhang said.
Zhang said he has had no prior cheer or gymnastics experience, and has happily taken on this new challenge of cheering. His favorite aspect of cheer is doing stunts: when cheerleaders form small groups and help push flyers up into the air; examples being pyramids and basket tosses.
“Stunting is very challenging and pretty new to me so I feel that it is really interesting,” Zhang said.
Zhang is a backspot in stunt groups which is usually reserved for the tallest cheerleaders. Backspots help lift the flyer of the stunt, helping the flyer extend upward and keep their balance.
Since joining cheer has increased his love and interest in sports, Zhang recently added after-school tennis to his schedule.
When asked if he thinks other boys should join cheer, Zhang replied, “Yes, of course. It gives cheer more of a diversity factor as well as a factor of gender equality because usually it’s ‘boys playing sports and girls cheering’ but I think it should be equal.”