by Amanda Gattorna

As Homecoming approached, the football players were hard at work on the field. Perhaps what would be eye-catching, however, would be the one dark haired girl flying through the air as a group of girls stood under her cheering.

CheerleadingCheerleaders have one goal: to get the crowd excited. All of their stunts and cheers are organized and practiced in order to keep the crowd on their feet yelling for the school’s athletes. They have a love for what they do, even when it gets dangerous.

Nika Teh, a freshman at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, is studying animation and illustration and has been a cheerleader since her senior year of high school. Teh said, “For me, since I am the person on top, I’m a flyer.  I get to be thrown in the air and they have to catch me. And honestly, it’s a dangerous part, but it’s the most exhilarating part of cheerleading for me and I really love it.”

Teh’s main point was centered around the cheerleaders’ goal to “hype up the crowd.” She said it can be hard work and the newer someone is, the harder it is to learn the stunts. Teh said the worst part for her is trying to learn new cheers. But even as she described learning something new as difficult, a love of what she does spilled over.

Teh also described her biggest disappointment: “Cheerleaders work really hard trying to cheer and help hype up the crowd. It discourages us when they don’t respond.” She knows just how much work these girls are actually putting in to making their cheers just right. However, she’s not the only one that knows what it takes to get ready for Homecoming.

Cheyenne Hixson (a senior at UNW studying Elementary Education) is the cheer captain. She has an important role of organization and putting everything and everyone in order. Not only does she take care of the things that the average on-looker can see, such as the uniforms and pom-poms, but also the background things such as recruiting people and setting up practice times.  She is in charge of the Facebook page, although Hixson said the most crucial form of gaining people is through word of mouth. She teaches cheers that she already knows, but she said she is always open to learning new things and receiving suggestions from others.

One of the hardest parts for Hixson as captain is getting everyone “caught up.” She loves new comers and feels that it’s “awesome they’re trying new things.” Hixson then said the result of new in-comers is making sure the new girls are able to learn these new cheers and learn new stunts quickly. She said they are now working on “showy, solid stunts and crowd-involvement cheers.” Hixson then thought about where her cheerleaders are at now, and she believed they are doing well when it comes to their progress. “There are a couple girls who have never cheered before … and just to see how much progress they’ve made in a year, you wouldn’t think they’ve never cheered before.” Hixson seemed to beam with pride at their progress as she said this.

One of the things that both Teh and Hixson agreed upon was that because they are not an official athletic team, but rather a club, it can become very challenging to gain the resources and time. However, both of them also agreed that they make the most of it.

Hixson finished by saying one word: join! She would love to see more people joining the cheerleading club, and she added, “Especially guys.”

After all, as Teh finished, “It’s not because we’re just there for the crowd or for the football players – we do it because we love it as well.”

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