Cheer: Behind the scenes

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Cheer: Behind the scenes

Lilly Anderson (12) performs a flip during a halftime cheer performance during the homecoming game. Cheer held their senior night yesterday at 6:45 before the home football game against Oakland Military Institute.

Lilly Anderson (12) performs a flip during a halftime cheer performance during the homecoming game. Cheer held their senior night yesterday at 6:45 before the home football game against Oakland Military Institute.

Nicole Chen

Lilly Anderson (12) performs a flip during a halftime cheer performance during the homecoming game. Cheer held their senior night yesterday at 6:45 before the home football game against Oakland Military Institute.

Nicole Chen

Nicole Chen

Lilly Anderson (12) performs a flip during a halftime cheer performance during the homecoming game. Cheer held their senior night yesterday at 6:45 before the home football game against Oakland Military Institute.

by Sara Yen, Asst. Features Editor

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“High kicks!” a captain shouts to the three rows of cheerleaders facing her, leading stretches in the mirrored brightly-lit practice room. Following the captain, the cheerleaders rapidly swing their legs up and down ten times, their arms held in a “V” above their heads. In stark contrast to their flashy pom poms, large white bows and long-sleeve green, white and black cheer uniforms, during practice the cheerleaders bear more comfortable attire, wearing tank tops and t-shirts and either shorts or leggings.

The cheer team performs at all home games and some away for the football team, having attended five so far this season. In the past, they have cheered for boys and girls basketball as well. This year, the team will cheer for girls volleyball at their senior night. Cheer performs for any sport that requests them. With every practice focusing for preparations for the upcoming game, the cheerleaders almost never have a break in their schedule.

“For the game[s], we have one big routine for halftime and then we have our cheers which we do during the game,” cheerleader Anish Kilaru (10) said. “Practice is mostly getting ready for the next performance, getting ready for the next routine.”

At the beginning of Harker’s upper school in the school year of 1998-1999, the first cheer team started with only five cheerleaders, all of whom were female. Expanding over the years, now the cheer team has grown to 17 members, including one male. Until the school year of 2008-2009, a decade after the beginning of the high school, no boys had participated in the cheer program.

“For the most part, it’s the same [being male on the cheer team],” Anish said. “Sometimes I feel out of place. From time to time, you just feel some people might see you differently. It’s just not seen as a guy sport—it’s not really advertised toward guys.”

Regardless of gender, as a cohesive group, the cheer team’s yelling and chanting on the sidelines followed by the rustling of their metallic pom poms fill the atmosphere of games to boost morale or to celebrate a goal.

“Having cheerleaders on your side of the team gives support not only to the team but the rest of the community. It’s great to have people who are big supporters of you on and off the field,” Ayush Vyas (12), varsity football captain, said. “These [supporters] are not only our parents, our teachers, but these are also our fellow classmates who are cheerleaders.”

Cheerleading holds practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room on the left side of the new gym. Requiring hours of practice unseen by the public, the cheer team’s support in rallies and games is laborious. Yet, their toil is what motivates students to participate in the spirit of the game and of the community.

“As Homecoming is coming up, it’s very important to rally around, and it’s very special at Harker. I’ve been playing football for four years, and I feel like every step of the way, cheerleaders have been there,” Ayush said. “They travel with us on away games, they make the long rides—through thick and thin, they’re with us, and to have that support system, whether you’re winning, whether you’re losing, to make sure the crowd is into intermission and the players are into it, it’s huge.”

While their multitude of cheers and exciting routines, which the cheer adviser, coaches and captains choreograph, might seem effortlessly done, their tight-knit performances are the result of repeated practice and effort.

“[My favorite part about coaching] is seeing the progress that [they] make. They put in a lot of hard work,” said assistant cheer coach Amy Hauck. “It’s painful, it’s tiresome, they go home sore and exhausted, but when we see them stick their performances in front of the audience of the football games, that’s probably the happiest moment as a coach.”